Review: The Bluesmasters Featuring Mickey Thomas

Posted on: Friday, May 7, 2010

“THE BLUESMASTERS – FEATURING MICKEY THOMAS”

(Direct Music Distribution)

Quite often the ‘rock singer makes blues album’ can turn out to be a disaster – therefore it’s good to report that this album of sturdy blues and r&b classics featuring former Jefferson Starship vocalist, Mickey Thomas is a most enjoyable affair, in the company of the seasoned players who make up The Bluesmasters.

Mickey Thomas struck gold in 1985 with Jefferson Starship, singing on the number one hits “We Built This City” and “Sara”, but earned his blues spurs before that with a lead vocal on Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around And Fell In Love” – which he reprises here. The core of The Bluesmasters are Tim Tucker (guitar), Doug Lynn (harmonica), Danny Miranda (bass), Ric Ulsky (Hammond B3 organ) and British legend, Aynsley Dunbar, on drums.

Apart from Thomas’s sweet and smooth vocals, producer Tim Tucker’ clean guitar leads and Doug Lynn’s lovely harmonica dominate – with him featuring on the opening “Cherry Red” – the original swing tune from 1939 turned into a mid-tempo blues shuffle. The band and Thomas get into some classic blues on a rousing “Rock Me Baby”, again featuring some tough harmonica from Lynn, before the afore-mentioned “Fooled Around And Fell In Love”, with sweet backing vocals from Stephanie Calvert – another ex-Starship member – and Darlene Gardner.

Dave Bartholomew and Chris Kenner’s  “Sick And Tired” rides on a funky groove from the band, with a change of direction for the much covered and loved “I’d Rather Go Blind”, with a great soulful vocal from Mickey Thomas and Ric Ulsky’s organ giving a Memphis soul feel to their arrangement. Chicago blues legend Magic Slim adds vocals and guitar to Muddy Waters “Can’t Get No Grindin’”, and also on the driving “Get Your Business Straight”.

Another guest, guitarist John Wedemeyer, contributes to the legendary Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues”, the slide riff countered by Doug Lynn’s harmonica; and also “Third Degree” – Eddie Boyd’s signature tune given a slow blues treatment with some fiery guitar on the intro from Tim Tucker. “Look Over Yonder Wall” is given a straight-ahead boogie treatment, with some more blazing guitar from Tucker.

The album closer is Tim Tucker’s original tune, “Long Time”, a ballad that could describe Mickey Thomas’s long musical journey to this point in time – a time that finds him in a good place with a fine group of musicians, who together have produced this very nice album.

GRAHAME RHODES

www.myspace.com/thebluesmasters

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