Thursday, June 12, 2008

West Side Strut reviewed by David Stine

West Side Strut
Eddy Clearwater
Alligator Records
12 tracks

Eddy Clearwater’s latest CD starts out strong but runs out of ideas at about its’ mid point. At that point, it starts relying on bass lines from 1998’s Cool Blues Walk and songs based heavily on the refrain. Fans of “The Chief” will probably find enough here for a purchase, but there are more consistent CDs out there--Cool Blues Walk, for one. Ronnie Baker Brooks produced the CD and he appears on guitar and vocal here and there. Dad Lonnie shows up for a “reunion” on a song entitled “Too Old To Get Married.” This song, like others that follow as I mentioned, rely on a clever refrain to carry the day. This is more of a rock n’ roll convention than a blues standard way of doing things; but considering Eddy’s last CD was recorded with Los Straightjackets, Eddy’s rocking version of the blues shouldn’t shock anyone.

It’s all here: the slow songs, the rocking tunes, an acoustic trade off with the younger Brooks, a gospel song, and my favorite: “Hypnotized” which uses an “Egyptian” bass line to underscore Eddy’s spell-casting woman. Bassists will be trying to learn the bass line for fun, I’m guessing. And I must note that the bass work of Carlton Armstrong is first rate and is a joy to listen to. Clearwater and Brooks both add great guitar work. And the senior Brooks and Clearwater play like men 40 years younger on “Too Old To Get Married.”

The CD is not without a bit of social commentary. “Do Unto Others” and the last song, “A Time For Peace” lament our poor treatment of each other and our unfortunate proclivity to always be at war.

Other guests on the CD are Otis Clay and Jimmy Johnson who help out vocally with “Do Unto Others.”

Where West Side Strut doesn’t strut for me are the acoustic “Came Up The Hard Way,” yet another unnecessary “blues credentials” song. Guys, we know who you are--you don’t have to prove you are blues worthy--and “They Call Me The Chief.” This is another song that relies WAY too much on the refrain because there aren’t really any lyrics to help it. “Rock-A-Blues Baby” new here sound like it might have been part of the Duke Robillard-produced Cool Blues Walk sessions. It has that “hey wait a minute--I’ve heard this song before” quality to it.

All in all, West Side Strut is OK. If you are a fan, it’s worth buying; if you are building and Eddy Clearwater library, check you internet music source for reviews of previous Eddy Clearwater CDs.

No comments: