Review: The Mannish Boys – Double Dynamite

Posted on: Thursday, Jun 28, 2012


The Mannish Boys – Double Dynamite

(Delta Groove Music: DGPCD0153)

If I’m not mistaken Delta Groove CEO, Randy Chortkoff, launched the music side of his operations initially as a vehicle to record The Mannish Boys – an ensemble containing many great modern players, from California and beyond, and also some veteran blues legends, making up an outfit that stays true to the glorious past, yet brings the music bang up to date for the modern audience.

This is The Mannish Boys sixth release, and the first double cd – the core  band being Finis Tasby and Sugaray Rayford (vocals), Randy Chortkoff (harmonica and vocals), Kirk Fletcher (guitars), Frank Goldwasser (guitars and harmonica), and the ‘on-the-money’ rhythm section of Willie J. Campbell (bass) and Jimi Bott (drums) . . . a mouth-watering array of talent . . . without the huge number of special guests, who must gave the number of musicians involved to around the 50 mark!

Space and time doesn’t permit me to name all involved, however, if you want guitars, how about Junior Watson, Elvin Bishop, Nathan James and Kid Ramos; with guest harmonica players no less than James Harman, Rod Piazza and Jason Ricci; some other great players and singers on board include Bill Stuve, Rob Rio, Jackie Payne, Fred Kaplan, Mike Finnigan . . . to name but a few!

As it says in the liner notes from Scott Dirks this is “a virtual blues festival in a single band”, and over the two discs and 26 tracks they cover a huge range of material . . . from swing to Chicago blues, some soulful and r&b flavoured tracks and trips to the Mississippi delta . . . disc 1 being named “Atomic Blues” and disc 2, “Rhythm & Blues Explosion”.

Suffice to say the music, given the musicians aboard, is of the highest order, with barely a ‘duffer’ in sight, and gets underway with a brooding treatment of the Son House classic, “Death Letter”, which introduces us to new vocalist, the soulful  Sugaray Rayford, and it’s driven by Frank Goldwasser’s riveting slide guitar. The great Rod Piazza blows some trademark superb harmonica on Little Walter’s “Mean Old World”, with the vocal taken this time by veteran Finis Tasby, who is still in fine voice.

Piazza is reunited with his long-time bass player Bill Stuve on a Muddy Waters medley of “She’s 19 Years Old/Streamline Woman”, with special mention to Rob Rio’s piano and the vocal, from another veteran, Jackie Payne. Label boss Randy Chortkoff contributes a song in “Please Forgive Me”, with his harmonica prominent .  . . it’s a strutting Chicago shuffle, with nice guitar from Kirk Fletcher and fine Rayford vocal.

A couple of other gems on disc 1 are a cool James Harman tune, “Bad Detective”, which swings nicely and has the man on board both vocally and harmonica-wise; the Willie-Dixon penned “Bloody Tears” features Frank Goldwasser on vocals and more slashing slide guitar; and fittingly the closing take of “Mannish Boy” has Muddy Waters youngest son, Mud Morganfield, on vocals, and sweet harmonica from Bob Corritore, who recently worked with Mud on his own latest release.

Disc 2 gets off to an explosive start with “Born Under A Bad Sign”, and sees some Albert King-inspired licks from Elvin Bishop and the horns of David ‘Woody’ Woodford and Lee Thornburg. The James Brown co-write , “You’ve Got The Power”, features a beautiful duet between Sugaray Rayford and Cynthia Manley. The great Ray Charles is recalled on “Mr. Charles Blues” with a smooth performance on piano and vocals from Mike Finnigan – the horns prominent again.

The ensemble get funky on James Brown’s “Cold Sweat”, with Kirk Fletcher again out-front with his brilliant guitar work to the fore; and then drop into a classic T-Bone Walker groove on his “You Don’t Love Me”, with Kid Ramos taking the honours on guitar, and Finis Tasby on vocals. It would be hard to give everyone aboard a lengthy mention, but just a final one for the legend that is Junior Watson . . . who tears it up as only he can on “I Woke Up Screaming”.

For all lovers of the blues and classic r&b, 26 tracks of pure class from simply the best players and singers around in the US blues today . . . another winner from Delta Groove Music, and as ever with their releases, it sounds just beautiful!


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