- Wrapped Up and Ready
- The Mannish Boys
- Delta Groove
Reviewed by Steve Daniels
What do you do after winning a Blues Music Award (BMA) from the Blues Foundation for Best Traditional Blues Album, in 2013? The same thing, equally well.
This is the seventh Mannish Boys album since their debut in 2004. Basically an ensemble of some of the finest West Coast blues musicians, the band stays its steady course with a generous 75 minute display of basic 12-bar tunes, with a few variations. The set is anchored by a core lineup of veterans Kirk Eli Fletcher and Franck Goldwasser ("Paris Slim") on guitars and producer and label founder Randy Chortkoff on occasional harmonica, all of whom appeared on the 2004 release. In the interim a few notables have departed, sadly including great vocalist Finis Tasby, still recuperating from a severe stroke, but they have been solidly replaced.
In Tasby's stead, emerging as a capable star in his own right, is Sugaray Rayford. Providing the pipes on ten of the sixteen cuts, Sugaray proves that he can croon and definitely that he can roar; this is one of the most powerful singers around, and sure to be a luminary on the blues scene for years to come. Other vocals are provided by Chortkoff, Goldwasser, Bay Area guitar maven Steve Freund, perennial BMA nominee Candye Kane, and Trenda Fox. The latter chanteuse was unknown to me, but her contribution on "Can't Make a Livin' " is impressive.
The rhythm foundation is handled by Willie J. Campbell on bass, Jimi Bott
on drums, and creative (and sadly under-recognized) California veteran Fred Kaplan (Hollywood Fats Band, Hollywood Blue Flames) on piano. Abetting Fletcher and Goldwasser on guitar are Freund, Monster Mike Welch, Laura Chavez, and (yeah! he's back!) Kid Ramos, and for aficionados of harmonica we have masters Kim Wilson and Bob Corritore and teenage newcomer Jacob Huffman. The list of credits on this album is book-length.
What about the music? Consistently excellent: good songs, outstanding musicianship, fine vocals….Standouts include "Everything's Alright," a jump blues with horns backing Sugaray; "I Idolize You," featuring the tandem of Kane and Chavez; "The Blues Has Made Me Whole," with guitar and vocal by Freund; and the extended instrumental closer, "Blues for Michael Bloomfield," with incendiary guitar solos ranging from the flashy to the slow and poignant by Fletcher and Goldwasser.
These folks had better be planning their next award acceptance speeches.
[This review initially appeared in Big City Blues magazine.]