Tuesday, November 6, 2007

25 Years of Chicago Blues: Volume 3 reviewed by Steve Jones

25 Years of Chicago Blues: Volume 3
Barrelhouse Chuck
Viola Records
13 tracks

Barrelhouse Chuck (Charles Goering) has become somewhat of a unique presence in the world of blues keyboard players. No other blues man or woman have the depth and breath of personal experience with Chicago blues keyboard legends like he does. Born in Ohio and transplanted to Florida, Chuck learned piano (a switch for him because he learned to be a drummer at age 5) after hearing Otis Spann tinkle the keys with Muddy Waters’ on ‘Can’t Lose What You Never Had.’ He bought up all the blues records he could find and was he a quick learner (he is self taught, by the way). He followed Muddy around the south and learned from his then-piano player Pinetop Perkins. Chuck got to play with Muddy and eventually opened for him and other legends of the blues world as they toured the south.
In 1979, Chuck drove 24 straight hours to Chicago and walked into B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted and told Sunnyland Slim he’d just drive 24 hours to see him. That began a 10 period of tutelage with Slim for Chuck, something one can hear in his music. Pianists like Pinetop and Little Brother Montgomery also befriended Chuck and even brought him into their homes. Chuck nursed Little Brother in his illness and drove him around and in return Little Brother began a long mentorship with Chuck.
Chuck learned at the foot of the masters of Chicago blues piano and in turn has himself now become one of the kings of the Chicago keyboards. Today it is pretty much Chuck and Erwin Helfer (who has been around just a bit longer than Chuck, since Chuck was born in 1958) who are the mainstays of Windy City blues piano. Chuck has become one of the great legends of keyboard blues, a testament to both the men he studied and lived with and to his own dedication to the craft.
Chuck has previously released two volumes of his music to celebrate his first 25 years of the blues. The first featured Chuck on keys with all vocal tracks. The second was an all instrumental CD. This new third set is a mix of vocal and instrumental numbers and it is a superb sampler of the silver anniversary of a great keyboardist’s work. The 13 tracks feature Chuck and a plethora of household names from the blues world whom Chuck has played with.
Kim Wilson. Eddie Taylor, Joel Foy, Calvin Jones and Willie Smith join Chuck on “Sail the Seven Seas,” a funked up soul filled slow blues tune with Chuck on vocals. “That’s All Right” with Willie Kent, Johnny B. Moore, Willie Davis and Merle Perkins is another all star effort. Nick Moss and Anson Funderburgh on guitars with Johnny Bradley and Greg Campbell join Chuck on “Barrelhouse Woman” and Moss returns on the next track (“Porch Light”) with Curtis Salgado, Bob Sroeger and Willie Smith. Chicago guitar greats Steve Freund and Billy Flynn are on back to back tracks (“Goin’ to Chicago” and “Wah-Wah Blues (Part 2)”) giving us some great Chicago blues. 12 great tracks with 12 great sets of artists fill the album, and Chuck adds a 13th home recording as a bonus cut.
Get this CD (and the two volumes prior to it ) if you want to add some superb historical tracks from the last 25 years of Chicago blues to your collection, all brought to you by the Windy City master of the 88 keys, Barrelhouse Chuck! You will not regret it!
Chuck is at Big Cities on Friday, October 5th with Gerry Hundt on guitar/mandolin/harp and John Carpender on drums– don’t miss him!

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