Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blues Calling reviewed by Steve Jones

Blues Calling
Barrelhouse Chuck
Viola Records
13 tracks/37:08

I think by my count this makes fourteen CDs for this generations’ top Chicago piano man, and he’s hit a home run with this one.  The sound is clear and clean, the tunes are classics with some of Chucks own stuff mixed in, and it’s just a barrelhouse of fun to listen to!

The opening chords on the CD are of Little Brother Montgomery’s “I Keep On Drinking”; they give you a sense of sitting on the piano bench next to Chuck, with a sound that is really clean and just right on.  The right hand notes are emanating on your right and the left on your left.  You and Chuck are one with the piano.  This is perhaps the best sounding CD Chuck has produced and the sound is up close and real. “Half A Pint Boogie” is a song Chuck and Erwin Helfer wrote, and served up here in second place it shows us why Chuck is one of the best keyboard men out there, and so is Erwin who joins him on the cut.  They run up and down the piano keys seemingly without effort in this fine instrumental.

“Tin Pan Alley/The Alley Blues” is a dark cover of this standard, making you feel as if you are in this alley that you shouldn’t be in.  “It’s You Baby” brightens things up Sunnyland Slim-style, with Chuck tickling the keys and howling in true Chicago blues form.  Robert Nighthawk’s “Anna Lee” takes us back down in a deep slow blues ad then Chuck stridently plays Leroy Carr’s “Barrelhouse Woman #1 to bring us back up.  It’s a marvelous dichotomy of the blues showing us both desperation and happiness.  He continues with Carr’s honky tonk “Ain’t Got No Money Now”, a fitting commentary on today from yesteryear.

“Church Street Blues” is a Barrelhouse Chuck song abut his love who lives far away.  He wrote this song about Betsy, his wonderful wife, and you can feel his strong emotions for her in both his vocals and playing.  He then gives us his “Blues For Little Brother”, an homage to one of his main mentors; he gives us some expressive play on this slow and mellow instrumental song.  Perry Weber from the Devilles next delivers the vocals on “Ten Long Years”, a song he wrote and Chuck plays backup on; it’s a cool mid tempo cut about bad relationships.  “Violas Stomp” is a nice rocking instrumental with Chuck and Ben Andrews on acoustic guitar.

Carr’s “Six Cold Feet In The Ground” is a lonesome sounding classic that Chuck does with both freshness and pathos.  He closes the music with Pinetop’s wistful “Gigolo”, who passed from us unexpectedly right before the CD’s release.  Chuck then gives us a fun bonus track of messages from his answering machine from all of the blues greats.

This is an outstanding album of some of Chuck’s favorite songs done by a man who is a legacy back to all the great Chicago keyboard players.  His fans will love this and those new to Mr. Goering will appreciate this as a fine initiation into Chicago blues piano done right!

Reviewed by Steve Jones

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