Jukebox Drive

  • 2008
  • Jukebox Drive
  • Mitch Woods
  • El Toro Records


In addition to being a crackerjack pianist, Mitch Woods is versatile and eclectic. Since this native New Yorker moved to the West Coast over 30 years ago, he has becomes steeped in the traditions of West Coast swing, Kansas City boogie-woogie, New Orleans gumbo and cajun, and Chicago electric blues. He has played with many of the blues greats, and his albums reflect his wide-ranging tastes and encounters. “Keeper of the Flame” in 1997 featured rollicking duets with such luminaries as John Lee Hooker, James Cotton, and Earl King. His 2006 album, “Big Easy Boogie,” was a tribute to the battered but vibrant city of New Orleans, his spiritual second home, and deployed many of its best blues musicians.

“Jukebox Drive” presents another facet of Woods’s range. Recorded in, of all places, that hotbed of the blues, Spain (!), and graced with a quartet of hot Spanish players, it presents Woods in his full-tilt boogie glory. Of the 12 cuts, at least half are pedal-to-the-metal and fingers-to-the-ivories barnraisers. If you want to have a dance party, bring this CD with you! Highlights include “Boppin’ the Boogie,” “Saturday Night Boogie Woogie Man,” and “Swell Lookin’ Babe,” all composed by Woods and all conjuring up memories not only of the traditions mentioned above, but also 1940s swing and 1950s rock-and-roll. The album concludes with “Mitch’s Boogie,” an instrumental showcasing his pianistic prowess and propulsive drive.

There are also a few surprises: admirable covers of the Professor Longhair classic tune “Tipitina,” John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” and Mose Allison’s “Parchman Farm.” Instead of imitating the originals, an intimidating challenge probably doomed to failure, Woods adapts them to his strengths and they sound terrific. Perhaps the most notable aspect of “Jukebox Drive” is Woods’s singing. Never remarkable on past discs, on this one it is fine: although his range is limited, Woods growls and croons convincingly and sounds great.

[This review originally appeared on the BluesWax Web site.]