Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gumbo Blues reviewed by Steve Jones

Gumbo Blues

Mitch Woods
Club 88 Records
12 tracks

Gumbo Blues is a beautiful blend of Cajun swing and jump blues delivered by Mitch Woods and a cast of impressive players. Woods’ boogie woogie piano and strong vocal work are perennial standouts and he delivers another superb performance here with this tribute to Smiley Lewis and Big Easy blues.

Mitch Woods covers two of the great songs that Smiley sang before others made them famous: “Blue Monday” and “I Hear You Knockin’” and gives us an authentic and impressive performance. He does not emulate the later Fats Domino and Dave Edmunds versions on these cuts, he offers up a fresh and vibrant take that hints of the prior versions yet offers something new, clean and full of life.

Mitch brings back Herbert Hardesty (who was on his prior offering “Big Easy Boogie”) on sax along with two young lions of the horn world: Amadee Castenall and Brian “Breeze” Cayolle hail from Alan Toussaint’s band. John Fohl on guitar, Cornell Williams on bass and Eric Bolivar on drums round out the band and they all deliver a romping and delightful stroll through New Orleans blues and boogie. Famed producer Dave Bartholomew had his hand in writing (at least part) of 10 of the 12 tracks, and they and other two songs offer the listener a stroll through Big Easy musical history.

Big Bartholomew anthems like “Gumbo Blues” and “Can’t Stop Loving You” are hopping good times as are “Big Mamou”, “L’il Liza Jane” and “Shame, Shame, Shame”. Woods gives us a trip through the juke boxes of the 50’s and early 60’s and an appreciation of a genre non one can hate. One also has to wonder how Smiley Lewis never became a household word doing many of these songs as the original artist.

The well traveled Brooklyn born Woods is a regular on the New Orleans scene and offers an authentic and exciting offering of some great songs with an inspired band that features a horn section that would be hard to best anywhere. If you like your blues and boogie dripping with a heavy gumbo roux filled with crawfish and shrimp , then this CD is for you! It’s an impressive set of covers and pays homage to a sound that should be kept alive forever!

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