Monday, July 22, 2013

Rooster reviewed by Harmonica Joe Poluyanksis


Clay Swafford
Lost Cause Records
14 tracks/40:05

Clay Swafford, after many years of honing his blues and boogie woogie piano skills, has just released his debut CD “Rooster”. Having piano  influences from Pinetop Perkins and David Maxwell and playing with fine musicians such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Bob Margolin to name just a few, it becomes very apparent that Clay has paid his dues. He is a player that has earned praises from from many blues artist. Pinetop Perkins stated, “ I have 10 fingers, it looks like he has 20”. What a compliment this statement from a true great has to be.

“Rooster” is a raw, unadulterated recording with no tricks. This CD is the product of Clay's talent on an upright Weber piano and Diunna Greenleaf's vocals.  Greenleaf is a woman that does sing the blues. All five tunes that she sings on are powerful and sang with deep feeling for the music. Her credentials include having her own band, Blue Mercy, touring Europe, France, Asia and the USA. She has performed with many blues greats that include “Pinetop”, Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton and Carrie Bell to name just a few. Greenleaf's vocals are a real treat to listen to on this CD.

Swafford opens “Rooster” with his full blown boogie woogie instrumental “Rooster's Boogie”, which sets the stage for the fantastic show that is about to follow. Just maybe, Clay does have 20 fingers as his right hand travels along as his left hand is is laying down a low end line for our ears. This is a rollicking way to start out the recording. Taking us right into “29 Ways, a Big Joe Turner tune, Swafford introduces us to the powerful vocals of Diunna Greenleaf. As he takes us down the road with his skillful piano playing Diunna belts out the lyrics of this great old blues song. She takes command of the moment as she presents the tune with power, dynamics and feeling of the blues.
If you are looking for a slow blues tune, you will not be disappointed with Greenleaf's take on Big Mama Thorton's “Sometime I Have A Heartache”. Clay brings his piano down to bring us that deep drag down blues feeling as he draws out the blues lyrics from Diunna. This tune will linger with you for some time after it is finished.

The mix of Clay's free flowing piano instrumentals and tunes with his piano and the powerful vocals from Greenleaf make a strong statement for “Rooster” This is really a good debut CD for Swafford. Also included on this recording are two tracks with Bob Margolin adding his blues guitar and vocals on  “Mean Disposition” and “Fine Little Mamma”. Bob Corritore and the All Stars are added also on a good version of “Tin Pan Alley”. Corritore adds his chromatic harp to the mix of the piano and vocals. This is great stuff as his blows a fine solo on this track.

Clay Swafford has done a great job presenting his piano talent to us with “Rooster'. Adding the vocals of Diunna Greenleaf is a true plus for the CD also. Let it be known the Clay Swafford is here to stay with his vast feeling for the blues and his nimble fingers on the piano.

Reviewed by Harmonica Joe

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