SR5021: Driftin from Town to Town -- Barrelhouse Chuck
In 2006, esteemed jazz critic Nat Hentoff featured Barrelhouse Chuck in the Wall Street Journal, where he reviewed “Got My Eyes On You” and praised Chuck’s commitment to the Chicago blues piano tradition. On this disc, Barrelhouse Chuck and Kim Wilson continue building their strong musical bond with one another and show why they are the premier Chicago blues artists. With the help of veterans, and stars in their own right, Larry Taylor, Richard Inness, Billy Flynn, Jeremy Johnson, and Sax Gordon, this disc is absolutely must listening for experienced and new listeners of Chicago blues.
Other related recordings by The Sirens Records include:
Press / Music CD Reviews
“… Blues piano master Barrelhouse Chuck (Goering) is once again accompanied by stellar musicians on his fourth release on The Sirens imprint, the small Illinois label dedicated to preserving authentic blues, gospel, and jazz piano. This time it’s a band that any genuine “Old School” blues artist would love to have in support: Wilson, harp and vocals (two tracks), Larry Taylor, bass, Richard Innes, drums, Sax Gordon, tenor and baritone saxes, and guitarists Billy Flynn and Jeremy Johnson.
Initially inspired by Otis Spann, Goering moved to Chicago in 1979 and was mentored by Sunnyland Slim and Little Brother Montgomery (among others); he was part of the Chicago blues scene when long departed legends were still to be learned from and he’s been an in-demand session player for 30 years. Any fan should know that the blues is in good hands when Barrelhouse Chuck comes to play. Except for Goering’s melancholy title track and the Goering/Wilson instrumental, “K&C Boogie,” the remaining 11 tunes come from traditional sources: Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, Booker T. & the MGs, Floyd Jones (two tunes), Robert Nighthawk, Sunnyland Slim, TV Slim (Oscar Willis), Jody Williams, and Cal Green.
I had no expectations that this album would reinvent the wheel or contain cutting edge production gloss; however, I did expect clarity, conciseness, and cohesion infused with integrity and soul, and on those points this collection scores high marks. Additionally, there are much appreciated surprises like the obscure jump blues instrumentals by Chicago guitarist Jody Williams, “Lucky Lou,” and Houston guitarist Cal Green, “The Big Push,” Berry’s country-rock calendar countdown, “Thirty Days,” and Sunnyland Slim’s stop-time shuffle about feminine wiles, “She’s Got A Thing Going On.” There’s even some Sixties-styled cheesiness with a switch to Farfisa organ on Booker’s T.’s “Time Is Tight” and the aforementioned “Lucky Lou.” Goering’s dry, laconic vocals are slightly reminiscent of Sunnyland Slim’s; as a pianist, the greats live on in his playing.”
“Would you love to be transported back to Chicago in the 50s and early 60s – then you’re in luck because this fabulous set from two masters of the genre, Barrelhouse Chuck and Kim Wilson, will do exactly that. Add in a band that includes Larry Taylor, Richard Innes, Billy Flynn, Jeremy Johnson and Sax Gordon and it’s Peppers here we come.
Where do I start in reviewing this set? Should it be the stomping rendition of Cal Green’s ‘The Big Push’ with it’s rollicking piano, dirty harp, rasping sax and vintage rock’n’roll guitar – or the Muddy inspired title track with it’s melancholy vocals, Spannesque piano and Little Walter styled harp. Or, maybe, the lowdown, “broke and hungry, ragged and dirty too” piano on a stunning rendition of Floyd Jones and Johnny Young’s ‘Stockyard Blues’ with it’s moaning harp and vocals, and wistful guitar crying out in defiance – or the vintage rockabilly of Chuck Berry’s ‘Thirty Days’ with it’s raucous piano and vocals accompanied by Flynn’s “Berried” guitar. Then again I could highlight ‘Anna Lee’ with it’s pure Nighthawk slide, wailing harp and vocals, and “down in the alley” piano – or the irascible vocals and piano, and shimmering guitar, that power ‘Flat Foot Sam’.
Or … should it be ‘Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy’, ‘K&C Boogie’, ‘Lucky Lou’ or … just buy it and enjoy the whole thirteen tracks. (www.thesirensrecords.com)”
“I knew I was going to like this as soon as the first notes of the opening, driving Cal Green – penned instrumental pounded out. Barrelhouse Chuck has been on the road with Kim Wilson and Co. for around seven years, and this set is no nonsense blues, r&b and vintage rock’n’roll. Looked at objectively, it’s great!
The track listing tells you pretty much what you need to know. Chuck draws on his years of experience of playing the real deal Chicago blues, learning from the likes of Little Brother Montgomery and Sunnyland Slim. Kim’s harmonica playing is in its element here, recalling the likes of Walters Big and Little, and he even handles the vocals on the exemplary covers of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘I’m Leaving You’ and Chuck Berry’s rocking ‘Thirty Days’. Barrelhouse Chuck’s own singing is also excellent on his six vocal numbers; try the wonderful version of ‘Stockyard Blues’ or ‘You Can’t Live Long’ – two Floyd Jones covers!
The other All-Stars include bassist Larry ‘The Mole’ Taylor (of Canned Heat fame) and drummer Richard Innes – and both were at one time the Hollywood Fats rhythm section. Sax Gordon applies his always tasty sax appeal to five num bers, and guitar duties throughout are shared between Billy Flynn and Jeremy Johnson, two of the most talented blues players around these days – and both get plenty of opportunity to showcase their talents; for suitable examples, take a listen to the always enjoyable ‘Lucky Lou’ for Billy, the ringing licks of ‘The Big Push’ for Minneapolis’s Jeremy.
With the sheer volume of ‘product’ issued these days, it can be sometimes easy to forget what attracted us to the blues in the first place. Discs like this are a timely reminder!”
“Following up from his great 2006 Blues All Stars releases I Got My Eyes On You, Barrelhouse Chuck has delivered a superb new set of tunes for blues fans to appreciate. Featuring two songs by Chuck (one co-authored by Kim Wilson) and a selection of 11 great covers, this album is Chicago blues done right. As with most of his albums. Chuck also provides us a great smorgasbord of snapshots from his personal collection of classic shots of him and his musical family (and real family) and friends.
Chuck and Kim have appeared countless times together with the Blues All Stars. This version includes their long-time stalwarts and friends Billy Flynn and Jeremy Johnson on guitars, Larry Taylor on bass, Richard Innes on drums, and here with Sax Gordon on tenor and baritone sax on five cuts. These guys are together and in synch– there is no confusion about who is doing what; they are consummate professionals
The CD opens to the swinging and hopping Cal Green tune “The Big Push.” This was a great opener; covering this superb instrumental from the author of “The Twist” was just the thing to set the tone and get the juices flowing for more great blues. Sax Gordon makes his first appearance here an shows us what he can do. Next up is the title track, Chuck’s tune. He delivers a poignant piano solo and they completely sell it with his authentic vocals and a nice harp solo by Kim. Wilson fronts the band with Howlin’ Wolf’s “I’m Leaving You;” he gives us some nice and dirty vocals as Chuck aptly tickles the keys. The guitar solos are smooth and slick here, too, and Gordon steps in for a little sweet horn work. “Stockyard Blues” is a little number by Johnny Young and Floyd Jones that is always one of my favorites from Chuck; I love how he handles his vocals on this song. Wilson grunts and snorts out some cool harp on this one; it could almost be a stockyards sound. The guitar solos later in the cut are also sweet.
Jody Williams’ “Lucky Lou” instrumental is next and the guitar work here is impeccable. The guitar sings lead to us here. One can see how Otis rush would fall in love with William’s stuff– classic Chicago sounds and these guys really sea the deal. They follow that with Chuck Berry’s “Thirty Day’s” which I have heard Wilson, Flynn and Chuck do before; they are spot on here and do a fantastic job. They even throw in a little call and response. The piano and guitar as cool here and Wilson’s vocals leave no room for complaint. “Flat Foot Sam” is a swinging rockabilly with some colorful lyrics and these guys blow it away and have a fun time doing so. The two leaders gang up for “K&C Boogie,” a delightful harp and piano boogie that Mssrs Wilson and Goering penned. A very nice instrumental that the two go back and forth on and the band supports the effort well. Floyd Jones’ “You Can’t Live That Long” is another vehicle for Chuck to show off his great vocals with and Kim supports him with some nicely distorted harp. He tells his baby to drink on and if she stays intoxicated she can’t live long. It’s a different take on the blues as Jones is telling his woman to go off and let drink kill her instead of trying to get her to quit, and Chuck delivers that message well.
Chuck then shouts out “She’s Got A Thing Going On,” a song Sunnyland Slim immortalized and that Chuck coves so well. Willie Dixon’s “Three Hundred Pounds” gets an instrumental cover and it’s well done; a great blend by the boys with Kim’s harp leading the charge. “Anna Lee” is another one of my favorites by Chuck; this Robert Nighthawk song is one he always delivers on and he does here, too. They conclude with Booker T and the MG’s “Time is Tight;” a sweet organ leading the way, the driving beat and some nice filler solos make this a great conclusion to an extremely fun ride.
I can’t recommend this enough. This is Chicago blues and some related materials done right– don’t delay in adding this to your collection. You will be sorry if you don’t!. Most highly recommended!!!”
“This is the third release from pianist Barrelhouse Chuck and his second collaboration with Fabulous Thunderbirds front man Kim Wilson on the independent Sirens label, a niche imprint that specializes in gospel, jazz, and especially all things blues piano (for readers who aren’t familiar with the label, their catalog is well worth perusing at www.thesirensrecords.com; Heavy Timbre and 8 Hands on 88 Keys are exceptional). With Wilson currently riding a wave of critical acclaim for the T-birds’ newest album, Driftin’ from Town to Town couldn’t have been released at a better time, and the Blues All-Stars are just that—perennial West Coast favorites in bassist Larry Taylor (of Canned Heat) and drummer Richard Innes, guitarists Billy Flynn and Jeremy Johnson, and sax man Sax Gordon.
There’s no need to review the long résumés of the men playing here, and the 13-song set is just as strong and the grooves just as tight as you would expect from such a talented ensemble. Most of the tracks are in the Chicago blues vein, providing the perfect vehicle for Chuck’s Sunnyland Slim–inspired dexterity on the keys. Their cover of Floyd Jones’ Stockyard Blues stands out for its airy arrangement, anchored by the slow and steady rhythm provided by Taylor and Innes. Wilson lays down some particularly tasteful (and reserved) first position harp work on that track.
An instrumental version of Willie Dixon’s Three Hundred Pounds of Joy, a song typically associated with Howlin’ Wolf, is an unexpected delight—Flynn and Johnson channel Hubert Sumlin, Wilson’s amplified harmonica replaces the Wolf’s vocal lines, and Gordon answers Wilson’s call with some punchy sax fills. Faithful covers of Jody Williams’ Lucky Lou and Chuck Berry’s Thirty Days add sonic variety to the proceedings without leaving the Windy City, but the boys head south to Memphis to wrap things up with one from the Stax catalog, Booker T & the M.G.s’ Time Is Tight.
Driftin’ from Town to Town is not innovative, but it doesn’t need to be—it’s just a beautiful display of blues artistry, performed by master bluesmen steeped in tradition and doing what they do best.”