Saturday, March 2, 2013

Americana reviewed by Rick Davis

The 44's
Rip Cat Records

13 Tracks

The Los Angeles contemporary blues band, The 44's, has become a very popular live blues group since their first release Boogie Disease in 2010 which reached number two on B.B. King's Bluesville Sirius/XM Satellite Radio and number 12 on the National Living Blues radio charts. American Blues News awarded the band with The Best Blues Band of 2011 and Blues Underground Network awarded the band with Best Debut Album.

It comes to me as no surprise that they have received these accolades and the title of the hardest working band of 2011, after reviewing their 2010 debut CD on the Rip Cat label. Supporting their efforts all the way, has been Kid Ramos who in my estimation one of the finest West coast guitar slingers today. Ramos produced their latest release Americana on the same label as their debut album. With Ramos as a guest on guitar, Johnny Main handles lead guitar and vocals along with the other original members Tex Nakamura on harp, Mike Turturro on upright bass, and J.R. Lozano on drums.

The 44's along with contemporary blues groups like Kid Ramos, John Nemeth, Kid Anderson, Pieter "Big Pete" Van Der Pluijm, and Kyle Jester, just to name a few, are preserving that West coast sound in both harp and guitar styles, dating back to the early days of blues bands like the Hollywood Fats Band, the Red Devils, and the James Harman Band.

Their latest release is new material by the 44's and Kid Ramos along with Willie Dixon's "You'll Be Mine," and Chester Burnett's "Mr. Highway Man." They open Americana with an up-tempo boogie clillin' style tune "Hanging Tree" with Ramos on lead guitar and Johnny Main blowing his "Mississippi Saxophone" delivering that raw, rough, gritty blues sound that has made them so successful as both a studio and live blues group. Johnny Main and Kid Ramos compliment each other with great guitar licks and along with a superb horn section on the song "Lady Luck." Main's harp and vocals on the original shuffle "Cocaine" are very reminiscent of the early James Harman days. "Dixie" brings in a hint of rockabilly much like a tune from Sun Records and then moves seamlessly into that West coast guitar style. "She's Poison" has almost a hypnotic groove with haunting harp solos from Tex Nakamura. Kid Ramos offers some slide guitar on "Pleading My Case," a tune that could be taken right out the Elmore James songbook. The 44's get down and dirty on the slow blues tune "Mr. Operator," delivering lead guitar solos brought center stage with a little SRV flavor added! "Slip Slidn' Thang" has a traditional Delta blues sound with slide guitar throughout. "99 To Life" is a hard drivin' shuffle with scorching guitar solos and exceptional harp from Nakamura. "Hard Times" slows the pace considerably featuring Kid Ramos this time on the Dobro guitar. The CD concludes as superbly as it started on the original tune "Hold On" with Johnny Main tearing it up on lead guitar, Kid Ramos on baritone and rhythm guitar, and a explosive saxophone solo from Ron Dziubla's horn section. 

With their new release Americana, the 44's have delivered a collection of new, original material created with vintage equipment that offers a variety of guitar styles from days past. This is what blues is all about! They bring a riveting sound that is absolutely captivating.

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