Debbie DAVIES – Blues Blast 2007

Debbie DAVIES – Blues Blast   2007

Blues

Any blues fan dedicated to live music will testify that when musicians play with their peers, the energy rises a few notches. That’s the concept behind this meeting of the minds hosted by guitarist Debbie Davies. Fellow string-benders Tab Benoit and Coco Montoya (both have worked with her previously) join harmonica veteran Charlie Musselwhite and let the resulting fireworks naturally explode. Typically, these projects wind up being overdubbed affairs, a process that dilutes and often negates the concept. But except for a few instances, largely with Benoit, Davies and her musical friends assembled in the studio, resulting in the titular explosion. Both Montoya and Davies apprenticed under Albert Collins, and the opening “A.C. Strut” captures the Texas blues legend’s loose shuffle style as the guitarists trade sizzling licks. Montoya and Musselwhite join for “Sittin’ and Cryin’,” a finger-snapping Davies original where the harpist tears into a limber and authentic Little Walter-styled solo topped only by the next track, his own “Movin’ & Groovin’,” to which he also contributes lead vocals. Davies turns the microphone over to Benoit on John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling King Snake,” moving the proceedings down to the muggy Louisiana swamps. But when the participants join on “Like You Was Gone,” the summit cooks. The closing 10-minute romp on a slow, minor-key instrumental “Sonoma Sunset” again finds the foursome swapping licks as the temperature progressively intensifies and the resulting jam shoots through the roof. By Hal Horowitz.
**
Debbie Davies follows up her last release “All is Found” (2005) with the August 28, 2007, release of “Blues Blast” (CD-83669), a pressure cooker recording that showcases her seasoned guitar and vocal capabilities and includes guest appearances by three high-profile bluesmen: guitarists Tab Benoit and Coco Montoya, and harpist Charlie Musselwhite.
“Like a master chef’s gourmet meal offering exquisite courses, Debbie has crafted a nine-course wallop of her musical vision and spirit,” says Art Tipaldi, senior writer for Blues Revue and the author of the album’s liner notes. “One listen to Debbie’s tribute [to guitar mentor Albert Collins] with Coco, the opening `A.C. Strut,’ proves these kids learned Pop’s lessons.”
And that’s just the beginning. While the spirit of Collins is ever-present in Davies’ guitar attack, the earthy Texas shuffle has become her trademark sound. On Buddy Guy’s classic `My Time After While,’ she conjures up that fiery Lone Star groove.
Four of the eight remaining tracks are either written or co-written by Davies. Musselwhite ups the ante when he steps in with his high-end blows and low-end draws on Davies’ own “Sittin’ and Cryin'” and Musselwhite’s own contribution, “Movin’ and Groovin.'” Labelmate Tab Benoit joins Davies to pay homage to two legendary blues masters: John Lee Hooker on “Crawlin’ King Snake” and Howlin’ Wolf on “Howlin’ for My Darlin.'”
The closer, “Sonoma Sunset,” bakes slow and rich like the perfect high-calorie dessert for every blues lover. Davies and her three accomplices join together in this minor-key, slow-blues instrumental. The combination of Musselwhite’s harp solo – an exquisite succession of one sonic innovation after another – and input from all three guitarists turn this track into a ten-minute workout. In the final coda, it’s easy to feel the spirited enthusiasm in their teamwork.
**
Blues Blast represents Davies’ 11th album outing as a group leader, or in the case of Blues Blast, a hostess of sorts, as the CD features vocal and instrumental contributions from Coco Montoya, Tab Benoit, and Charlie Musselwhite. One or more of these special guests appears on each of the CD’s nine tracks, with all three plus Davies on two tracks – “Like You Was Gone,” a song written by frequent Davies drummer Don Castagno (who does not play on Blues Blast) and the closing instrumental track “Sonoma Sunset” written by Davies, Coco Montoya, the recording session’s drummer, Per Hanson, and its bass player, Rod Carey. The CD’s rhythm section is rounded out by Hammond B3 player Bruce Katz. “All of us – Tab, Coco, Charlie and myself – are students of the old school, and there’s a sense of history that ties us together,” says Davies of Blues Blast, which accurately describes the album’s feel, but there’s a noteworthy specific history shared by Davies and Montoya – both are the musical offspring of bluesman Albert Collins, the Master of the Telecaster. The Albert Collins connection is a fact both Davies and Montoya wear with pride and reverence and the two pay tribute to their mentor on the opening instrumental track, “A.C. Strut,” a Texas shuffle written by Davies reminiscent of great Collins shuffles such as “Frosty” (Ice Pickin’, 1978, Alligator Records) and “Avalanche” (Frozen Alive!, 1981, Alligator Records). Though Davies and Montoya have developed individual guitar tones and styles since their time with Collins, “A.C. Strut” is clearly a tribute to the mentor with respect to attack, phrasing, and vibrato. In fact, there are riffs on this track from Davies and Montoya that are eerily similar. The two start out exchanging verses, perhaps separately recalling Collins, but toward the end they trade riffs as if saying to each other, “Remember this one?” The tune’s a heartfelt dialog.
It’s interesting to note that the album closer, “Sonoma Sunset,” is also an instrumental, but one that features the present-day guitar approach of Montoya and Davies, the opening and closing tracks thus giving the listener a good “that was then, this is now” glimpse at the two guitarists. Mention was made in a recent concert review of Montoya’s volume-knob-swell technique and you’ll hear him use that to good effect on “Sonoma Sunset.” Musselwhite and Benoit also deliver ear-catching contributions to the ten-minute tune, making it an overall current-day blues celebration among friends, despite the track’s somewhat somber minor-key mood.
Nestled between the opener and closer you’ll find: Debbie Davies singing the Buddy Guy classic “My Time After Awhile” with Coco on guitar; a Davies-penned Texas-flavored original, “Sittin’ and Cryin’,” featuring Coco on guitar and Musselwhite’s harmonica; a Musselwhite original, “Movin’ and Groovin’,” with Charlie on vocals and harmonica; two songs featuring Tab Benoit – John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling King Snake” and Howlin’ Wolf’s (written by Chester Burnett and Willie Dixon) “Howlin’ For My Darlin'” – on which Benoit contributes vocals and guitar on the first and guitar on the second; “Like You Was Gone” (the song written by Castagno) on which Davies and her three guests appear; and, “Where The Blues Come To Die” written by Debbie Davies and Dennis Walker and featuring Debbie’s vocals and Coco’s guitar.
Yes, Blues Blast is essentially old-school-tinged electric blues, but presented in fresh and vital form by road warriors who’ve made a lifetime commitment to keeping the flame aglow. It’s a worthy addition to the collection.
By Tom Watson.
**
Ever wanted to be part of the “In” blues crowd? Well, Debbie Davies has called a few friends over for a party, and you’re invited! All you need is a CD player and a copy of Debbie’s new Telarc Blues release Blues Blast. You’re asking “Who RSVP’d?” Well, how about Coco Montoya and Tab Benoit, both bringing their axes and Charlie Musselwhite with harps in hand. Bruce Katz is playing a lean, mean B3 organ and there’s a solid rhythm section set up with Rod Carey on bass and Per Hanson on drums. Put on your high-heeled sneakers and come to the party with me!

Davies and Montoya are alumni of the Albert Collins school of the blues, and pay homage to their mentor on the opener, the instrumental Montoya original “A.C. Strut.” Both channel Collins in tone and attitude, and the track feels like Albert’s in the room with them, urging them on.

Not one to sit on the sidelines as a wallflower, Charlie Musselwhite gets up and gets down with “Movin’ & Groovin’,” blowing and exposing the existence of a blues musician: “Movin’ and groovin’, I’m jumping from town to town. Just dropped by to kick these blues around.” But while he’s here, he’s gonna give that harp a good seeing to, which he does on four tracks. Tab Benoit just got in from Louisiana, and after wiping the swamp moss off his headstock, he joins in the fun with his sultry strut through “Crawling King Snake” and a bouncy guitar romp on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Howling For My Darling”.

The long time friends (all have appeared on pervious recordings with Davies) and contemporaries join their considerable forces for the closing track “Sonoma Sunset.”

At first glance I wondered “Only nine cuts on this CD?” Then I looked at the total playing time: 53:50. You get your monies worth here because on every track each musician really opened up and took their time with their musical contributions.

Debbie Davies is a gracious hostess for this blues gathering, sharing vocal and guitar duties. But it’s her CD, and fans will recognize her guitar tone on every track. So get your hands on Blues Blast. This is one party you don’t want to miss!
By Blue Lisa.
**
Debbie Davies- Guitar, Vocals
Coco Montoya, Tab Benoit- Guitar
Charlie Musselwhite- Harmonica
Bruce Katz- Organ
Rod Carey- Bass Guitar
Per Hanson- Drums
**
01. A.C. Strut 4:33
02. My Time After Awhile 4:58
03. Sittin’ and Cryin’ 4:46
04. Movin’ & Groovin’ 6:58
05. Crawling King Snake 6:04
06. Howlin’ For My Darlin’ 5:19
07. Like You Was Gone 5:58
08. Where The Blues Come To Die 5:06
09. Sonoma Sunset 10:01
**


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