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SR5025: Remembering the Masters   -- Barrelhouse Chuck



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Forty years ago, Barrelhouse Chuck was a student of Chicago blues piano. But today Barrelhouse Chuck is a master in his own right, and he is carrying on the tradition that he learned directly from Little Brother Montgomery, Pinetop Perkins, Sunnyland Slim, Detroit Junior, and others. Barrelhouse Chuck melds these disparate styles into his own and no other Chicago piano player has been able to do this and have the same pedigree. On this disc Barrelhouse Chuck is joined by his long-time collaborator Billy Flynn, who is one of the best blues guitarists practicing his craft today, Lluis Coloma, who is Europe's leading exponent of blues and boogie woogie piano, and Scott Grube, who plays traditional pre-war blues piano in Chicago.

Steven B. Dolins, President of The Sirens Records
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Press / Music CD Reviews

In remembering and celebrating the masters he has known and loved, Barrelhouse Chuck elegantly shows what a formidable talent and masterful musician he himself has become.

Justin'O Brien, Living Blues, October 2016
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Barrelhouse Chuck's dedication to the art of blues piano playing is on full display on "Remembering The Masters". Each selection is a deep and reverent expression of love and respect for the genuine masters of blues piano. Sunnyland, Little Brother, Pinetop, Spann and Leroy Carr et.al. may all rest a little easier in the afterlife knowing that Chuck Goering is honoring and continuing their legacies for future generations. It's an unforgettable recording that no collection should be without!!

Mark Baier, Chicago Blues Guide
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Chicago pianist 'Barrelhouse' Chuck Goering studied the masters of post-war Chicago blues piano, in particular Sunnyland Slim and Little Brother Montgomery. Some 40 years on this disc commemorates what Chuck learned and reminds us all of that great tradition of piano/guitar duets of yesteryear. There are no drums, bass or harp here, just Chuck's superb piano playing and Billy Flynn (a long-time collaborator) on guitar and mandolin. Two other pianists also contribute, Spain's Lluis Coloma and fellow Chicago player Scott Grube. The material is drawn from the piano masters themselves: Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, Leroy Carr amongst others and Chuck contributes four original tunes.

What better way to kick off such a tribute to the piano masters of the past than a "Homage To Pinetop Perkins"? Chuck's twinkling right and rolling left hand excellently complemented by Billy's deft fretwork. JB Lenoir's "How Much More" gives us the first of Chuck's vocals and while he is definitely not the world's greatest vocalist his serviceable vocals deliver the lyrics clearly. On Johnny Young's "Keep On Drinking" Billy switches to mandolin and he and Chuck weave some great patterns round the core tune; another of Johnny's well-known compositions (with Floyd Jones), "Stockyard Blues", appears later in the disc.

Leroy Carr is the source for two tunes: "How Long, How Long Blues" again features Billy's mandolin work while the less well-known "Straight Alky Blues" is the longest tune here, performed by Chuck solo and although Billy's work is great throughout the disc Chuck is more than capable of filling all the space on his own, as he does here! Little Brother Montgomery is also the source for two tunes, "I Just Keep On Drinking" adding yet another alcohol-related song to the disc, Chuck using electric piano for the only time on the disc and "Vicksburg Blues" for which Chuck passes the piano stool to Lluis Coloma while he concentrates on the vocals, Billy sitting this one out. Little Johnny Jones is the source for "Chicago Blues", a slow blues with Billy on slide while Sunnyland Slim's "She's Got A Thing Going On" is another solo piano/vocal performance which Chuck performs superbly, the tune having a definite rock and roll feel.

Irving Berlin's "How About Me" sounds an odd choice but with Chuck concentrating on vocals, Scott Grube on the piano and Billy playing acoustic slide the tune takes on a real blues feel. Chuck collaborated with Mary-Anne Moss on the uptempo "I Forgot To Remember" which works great as Chuck sees his ex and "forgot to remember I'm not in love with you anymore". Chuck's "Double D Boogie" clocks in at 1.40 and acts as something of a half-way interlude on the CD, Billy again using slide, and the album closes with the aptly named collaboration "Chuckabilly Boogie" which leaves us with some amazingly fast piano/mandolin duelling.

Chuck has been in ill-health in recent times but this disc was recorded in early 2016 and he sounds great here so let us hope that he will make a full recovery and provide many more piano highlights in the future. Beautifully presented in a case with lots of photographs of these old masters of the piano, lovers of Chicago piano will lap this one up and it makes a fitting tribute to the masters of the past by one of the present masters of blues piano in the Chicago style.

John Mitchell, Blues Blast Magazine, November 17, 2016
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Acknowledged as the finest modern-day practitioner of the Chicago blues piano, Barrelhouse Chuck Goering left Florida in the late 1970s for Chicago so that he could study with living legends like Little Brother Montgomery, Sunnyland Slim, Pinetop Perkins, and Emery "Detroit Junior" Williams. The student learned his way around the piano while becoming close friends with his elders. His devotion to the craft and innate abilities helped him incorporate elements from each friend into a consummate personal take on the tradition.

His fifth release on the Sirens label pays homage to the greats with help from Billy Flynn on a number of stringed instruments. They get things jumping immediately with Chuck rolling the boogie on "Homage To Pinetop Perkins," as Flynn adds single note and chordal embellishments. "I Forgot To Remember" is an upbeat original with Flynn's articulate picking meshing beautifully with Chuck's superbly executed backing.

Johnny Young's "Keep On Drinking" has Flynn on mandolin behind Chuck's despairing vocal. Chuck handles Little Brother's "I Keep On Drinking" by himself, baring his soul with an amazing touch on the keyboard, then delivers an equally impressive take of Leroy Carr's "Straight Alky Blues." Sunnyland Slim's "She's Got A Thing Goin' On" has long been one of Chuck's favorites. He gives it a brief, jaunty treatment that rocks the 88's. These tracks highlight Chuck's meticulous left-hand phrasing, once a staple of any respectable piano player. Flynn returns on mandolin for a somber exploration of another Carr classic, "How Long, How Long Blues," the duo settling into a poignant musical dialogue.

Luis Coloma takes over the piano on "Vicksburg Blues," turning in an outstanding recreation of Little Brother's style while Chuck's voice resonates with a sense of longing and emotional despair that is not for the faint-hearted. Another Chicago pianist, Scott Grube, sits in on "How About Me," an Irving Berlin throwback underscored by Flynn on acoustic slide guitar. The Little Johnny Jones tune, "Chicago Blues," takes us back to the time when Jones played with Elmore James. Flynn plays slide guitar on the instrumental "Double D Boogie," notable for Chuck's uplifting right-hand variations. The closer, "Chuckabilly Boogie," is a two-fisted stomp with Flynn's mandolin gaining the upper hand.

The CD packaging and booklet are adorned with numerous historic photos of Barrelhouse Chuck with his mentors. They illustrate the love, affection, and respect that Chuck had for each of these giants. All of those feelings are readily apparent in every track of this not-to-be-missed release, which is unquestionably one of the year's finest releases.

Mark Thompson, Blues Music Magazine, October 2016
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Barrelhouse Chuck is a generation younger than Helfer but he's another long time Chicago piano player. His influences include Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery and Leroy Carr and his style of blues is more driving and up-tempo with guitarist Billy Flynn often at his side firing off Chuck Berry licks. Chuck does his own singing which is an acquired taste but it does reach a sort of shouted soulful purity on "Straight Alky Blues" and "Vicksburg Blues". For a change of pace, he even sings Irving Berlin's "How About Me" in cute ragtime fashion with Flynn on acoustic guitar. Barrelhouse Chuck definitely knows to keep the raucous "drinking blues" tradition alive.

Jerome Wilson, Cadence Magazine, January-February 2017
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On his latest release, Barrelhouse Chuck, a stout-hearted warrior of Chicago piano blues and boogie-woogie, spreads the love around for role models like Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montomery, Pinetop Perkins, and still-active Erwin Helfer. Deftly played original homages and classical material regenerate the aura of those masters. Longtime friend Billy Flynn adds guitar or mandolin to most tracks, and pianists Lluis Coloma from Spain and Chicago's Scott Grube appear on a song each.

Frank John Hadley, Downbeat, November 2016
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… The well-illustrated booklet contains photos of Chuck with Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, Jimmy Walker, Lafayette Leake, Detroit Junior, Big Moose Walker and others, and much of the music on the album references these players' styles and approaches. It should be noted too that Chuck is a very fine vocalist, and that Billy Flynn helps out with his trademark excellent and always tasteful guitar playing, wither he is taking inspiration from Scrapper Blackwell or Elmore James, or playing mandolin in a Chicago blues setting a la Johnny Young. Spanish boogie ace Lluis Coloma plays piano on the stunning rendition of'Vicksburg Blues' and blues revivalist player Scott Grube plays piano on'How About Me', the Irving Berlin song covered by Leroy Carr. As with the others here, this is a very fine release containing well-played styles of music that are sadly heard all too infrequently these days. More power to The Sirens!

Norman Darwen, Blues and Rhythm, October 2016
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Barrelhouse Chuck Goering received an unparalleled education in blues piano, learning directly from Little Brother Montgomery, Sunnyland Slim, and Pinetop Perkins and others – the masters on the Chicago scene – and has enjoyed a rich, world-roaming career that, while it has never quite paid all the bills, has provided him with greatly satisfying musical opportunities and adventures. I am hard pressed to name another musician from outside the culture who has done as much to help the many musicians he knew and loved and learned from. He has perpetuated their memories through his incredible and loving stories, his adept imitation of their voices and of course by mastering their varied musical styles.

"Remembering the Masters" is an intimate set with the accompaniment of only guitarist/mandolinist Billy Flynn on half of the tracks. The rest feature simply Chuck's vocals and piano, with pianists Lluis Coloma and Scott Grube guesting on one number each.

As expected, Barrelhouse Chuck's playing and enthusiasm are of the highest caliber as he plays some chestnuts in tribute to old friends, and liberally includes a few originals, plus rarely played pieces by Johnny Jones, J.B. Lenoir and a lovely Leroy Carr version of Irving Berlin's How About Me (sung by Chuck but tenderly played by Chicagoan Scott Grube). Lluis Coloma, an excellent musician from Spain, was entrusted by Chuck to play Little Brother Montgomery's iconic Vicksburg Blues.

Following a spirited Homage to Pinetop Perkins, salted with plenty of Perkins nuggets, and an urgently delivered How Much More (with Chuck approximating J.B. Lenoir's original high-register vocals) is a superb piano and mandolin version of Johnny Young's Keep on Drinking, with Chuck taking the Otis Spann role to Flynn's mando picking. Blues duets between piano and mandolin are simply not heard these days. Flynn then substitutes a mandolin for Scrapper Blackwell's guitar on How Long Blues by the great Leroy Carr, one of Chuck's favorite piano men, and, dueting, they play off each other for Chuck's own Chuckabilly Boogie.

Montgomery is again invoked on I Just Keep on Drinking, and Leroy Carr yet again on the beautiful Straight Alky Blues, with its marvelously booming descending bass line. The Little Johnny Jones rarity, Chicago Blues, is delivered with fine rolling chords and sensitive vocal inflection, graced by Flynn's Elmore-reminiscent slide guitar.

Chuck's great friendship with Chicago patriarch Sunnyland Slim is recalled on Chuck's raucous resurrection of Slim's anthemic She's Got A Thing Goin' On, as well as the tear-inducing Stockyard Blues by Chicago blues poet Floyd Jones, on which Slim originally recorded.

In remembering and celebrating the masters he has known and loved, Barrelhouse Chuck elegantly shows what a formidable talent and masterful musician he himself has become.

Justin'O Brien, Living Blues, October 2016
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When Barrelhouse Chuck takes a trip down memory lane, one thing is certain -- a lifetime of Chicago Blues piano is on his mind. With his newest release on The Sirens Records, "Remembering The Masters", Barrelhouse Chuck (a.k.a Charles Goering) reminisces with a musical journey spanning not only his lifetime, but the lifetimes of blues piano's greatest luminaries. Goering is essentially unique in the blues community in that he studied firsthand with blues piano's most important practitioners. Sunnyland Slim, Pinetop Perkins, Little Brother Montgomery, Blind John Davis and Detroit Junior not only all mentored Chuck, but considered him a friend and equal. Indeed, the cover photograph features Chuck and Sunnyland Slim circa 1980 in Alaska, arm in arm, smiling ear to ear. It's a warm portrait of two men, generations apart, sharing a common love for music and each other's company. Over a dozen such color photos of Chuck with Little Brother, Pinetop, Detroit Junior, Sunnyland and others grace the generous liner notes.

"Remembering the Masters" kicks off with the self-penned title "Homage to Pinetop Perkins". This tune, and every selection on "Remembering the Masters", features the rather sparse arrangement of piano and guitar or mandolin. No drums, bass or Hammond organ here; it's a trip back to a crowded house rent party in 1937, South Side style. From the first notes, Chuck's piano rolls are impossible to resist, and in no time, the place is rockin' to the raucous jaunty rhythm of Chuck's left hand. Billy Flynn provides the perfect foil, weaving stinging guitar lines in between Chuck's swinging piano. Goering handles the vocal duties on each track, save for a couple instrumentals, and on J.B. Lenior's "How Much More" he demonstrates a maturity and delivery that makes each cut a genuine gem. While he channels Sunnyland Slim on "How Much More," the next cut, Johnny Young's "Keep on Drinking," is a primer on Otis Spann, who played on Young's original recording. Flynn (of course) limns Young's mandolin to a T. Sunnyland's style is revisited on Goering's own "I Forgot to Remember" and Sunny's old chestnut "She's Got A Thing Going On".

Perhaps no other mentor had more influence on Chuck than Little Brother Montgomery, and it's in full display on the cuts "Vicksburg Blues" and "I Just Keep On Drinking". "Vicksburg Blues" is Little Brothers' signature song, and Chuck tapped the talents of his good friend and colleague, Spanish pianist Lluis Coloma, to play on this beloved number. Coloma deftly and beautifully recreates the archaic, fragile bass runs and turn-arounds like he's owned them from day one. (There's some debate regarding who actually played these iconic figures first, LBM or Sunnyland-- both evidently take credit for their conception. This reviewer sides with Little Brother).

"I Just Keep Drinking (not to be confused with the earlier "Keep On Drinking") features a delicate and bouncy melody that's a joy to take in -- a wonderful track.

"Double D Boogie," one of Chuck's originals, is a rollicking instrumental that distills it all into a minute-forty tour de force, with Flynn working out some mean slide guitar.

The next three tracks visit the most influential of the pre-war blues pianists, and maybe of all time, Leroy Carr. (Carr lived a short but ultimately meaningful life, recording some of the finest blues piano ever committed to shellac). His brooding, haunting bass lines provide the backdrop for a sad autobiographic tale of Carr's alcoholic excess on "Straight Alky Blues". The next cut is Carr's arrangement of Irving Berlin's 1927 hit "How About Me," featuring Chicago's Scott Grube on piano. Rather than Carr's usual sideman, Scrapper Blackwell, Flynn's guitar figures evoke classic era Tampa Red, giving the tune a feel that's period correct and sublime in every way. It's a lovely song that represents '20s -'30s pop music perfectly. The Carr classic "How Long, How Long Blues," is next up and its familiar melody and cadence will ring a bell for all seasoned blues fans. It's a blessing to know these songs are in such capable hands.

"Stockyard Blues" features an Otis Spann type accompaniment on this venerable Floyd Jones song. It's an example of the raw post-war style that emerged in Chicago and gave birth to rock'n'roll a few years later. Little Johnny Jones' "Chicago Blues" is a slow grinder featuring Goering's piano supporting Flynn's slashing Elmore style slide runs.

"Remembering The Masters" closes out with "Chuckabilly Boogie," an exuberant instrumental that seems equal parts Big Maceo, Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins all rolled into 2 minutes 16 seconds of Barrelhousin' boogie woogie. It's the kind of song that could render a piano useless after the onslaught. Or at least a little out of tune.

Barrelhouse Chuck's dedication to the art of blues piano playing is on full display on "Remembering The Masters". Each selection is a deep and reverent expression of love and respect for the genuine masters of blues piano. Sunnyland, Little Brother, Pinetop, Spann and Leroy Carr et.al. may all rest a little easier in the afterlife knowing that Chuck Goering is honoring and continuing their legacies for future generations. It's an unforgettable recording that no collection should be without!!

It's fitting that, on September 23, Barrelhouse Chuck will receive a Lifetime Achievement award from the publishers of Blues Blast magazine. It honors a lifetime that represents more than just one man. Goering's legacy may be that he's lived many lifetimes in his 59 years, touching generations before and ahead of him, enriching their lives with his. Thanks to artists like Barrelhouse Chuck, the blues will never die.

Mark Baier, Chicago Blues Guide
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