Editor's note: George Fish was waylaid by back-to-back viral infections for much of February and March. This month he has two new CD reviews of indie and small-label artists that are well worth checking out.
Shout Sister Shout--All that Jazz (Oh yeah!)
Shout Sister Shout
Hit that Jive
MC Records MC-0063
Shout Sister Shout is an excitingly different quintet hailing from Lansing, Mich., capital of the Wolverine State, right next door to my old 1960s college stomping ground of Michigan State University, in next-door East Lansing. This quintet -- Rachel Davis, vocals; Joe Wilson, trombone, steel guitar and background vocals; Andy Wilson, harmonicas, trumpet and flugelhorn; Dominic John Suchyta, standup bass and background vocals; and Joshua Davis, guitars and vocals -- loves the music of the 1930s and 40s, and lovingly re-does these songs in a uniquely different way.
For example, there is no horn section or drums. Instead, the melodies are carried by the combination of guitar, steel guitar and upright bass, with Joe Wilson's steel guitar giving the sound a Western swing feel, particularly on several of the up-tempo tracks -- the opening track, "Slow Down;" track 6, "It's A Sin To Tell A Lie;" and track 11, "It's Only A Paper Moon." There are solidly-done solos throughout, on guitar, steel guitar, harmonica, trombone and trumpet, and Rachel Davis's excellent, melodious vocals are sultry, sophisticated, and when the song calls for it, even sexually suggestive.
The MC Records' rendition of Hit that Jive is a 14-track CD that's complied of the 12 tracks that appeared on Shout Sister Shout's original self-produced CD, with the addition of two bonus tracks and a video of the group performing that will run on most computers. A listen to the songs on Hit that Jive will convince one just how good was much of that 1930s and 1940s music, which did indeed possess a sophisticated sexuality that did not need to be graphic or raunchy.
But then, that was an era when sex was integrally tied to romance, and sexual infidelity was a serious taboo. Yet there's no doubt that Shout Sister Shout shows convincingly that these are songs of now, and not just of a past that came before most of us were born.
There are standards on Hit that Jive, such as "Moonlight In Vermont," "Carolina Moon," "It's A Sin To Tell A Lie" and "It's Only A Paper Moon," elegant songs that truly justify their longevity. Bluesy jazz tracks here comprise "Slow Down," "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Cryin' (substantially different songs than the rock/pop songs of the same titles from Larry Williams and Gerry and the Pacemakers respectively), Louis Jordan's "No Sale," "Never Missed My Baby," and the two bonus tracks, "You Rascal You" and "Hit That Jive Jack"
Other songs notably featured are Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child" and Davis's a cappella version of Cole Porter's poignant "Miss Otis Regrets." Also featured is the group's namesake song, Sister Rosetta Tharpe's swinging "Shout Sister Shout!" And last, that romantic caution, "Don't Let Your Eyes Go Shopping For Your Heart."
Notable indeed is the lyricism and even ironic poetry of the words from these songs. Consider this verse from "It's A Sin To Tell A Lie":
"If she leads me to the altar, I'm sunk
'Cause I can't tell the preacher I was drunk"
Or the realism in what is still one of the classic songs on poverty and riches, "God Bless The Child":
"Rich relations give
Crusts of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don't take too much"
And for directness, nothing tops Sam Theard's "You Rascal You":
"I'll be glad when you're dead
You rascal you"
Hit that Jive hits the stores April 7, and can be ordered directly from MC Records online at ....
The R&B Bombers
The The R&B Bombers Bombers
The R&B Bombers
The R&B Bombers are a Southern California group that originally formed in the 1980s, then broke up, and is now reconstituted with some of the original players. This self-titled CD is a compilation of previously released and unreleased tracks from the band's original incarnation.
That nine-member group then consisted of the late Larry Nass, guitar; Steve Nelson, bass; Tom Lackner, drums and percussion; Ken Strange, piano and organ; Joe Wilson, vocals and harp; and the horn section of Craig Woods, trombone; Craig Thomas, alto and tenor saxes, and vocals; Dave Tolegian, baritone, alto and tenor saxes; and Jim Hochanadel, tenor sax and vocals on "Everytime I Hear That Mellow Saxophone." All three saxmen do solos.
The R&B Bombers is an exuberant, well-produced recording of horn and keyboard-driven blues, jump and R&B with vocals that also incorporates guitar and harmonica. It is a nice melding of genres and styles that incorporates 1940s big-band swing, modern blues, piano boogie, and '40s, '50s and '60s R&B.
The four-man horn section of three saxes and a trombone is especially vibrant on this CD, and regales the listener with solid R&B riffing, re-creation of the full-throated big-band swing sound, and strong sax solos that are solidly in a blues/R&B groove with just a tinge of modern jazz. The R&B Bombers has 14 tracks, six of them originals, and one track, "Blow Wind Blow," given as a traditional number. Noteworthy here are the horn arrangements that nicely combine 1940s swing with 1950s R&B.
Running thematically through The R&B Bombers is the big-band sound that, as noted above, is a melding of 1940s swing with 1950s R&B. This big-band sound courses through 12 of the 14 tracks.
The two original blues, "Can't Help Myself" and "Since I Found You" feature it along with Joe Wilson's harp, and it fully infuses Doug Sahm's "Someday." The original "Karla" combines swing with early 1950s R&B, while four songs long familiar with blues/R&B aficionados -- Nappy Brown's "Don't Be Angry," Louis Jordan's "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens," and two B.B. King numbers, "Get Out Of Here" and "You Upsets Me" -- while partaking of the original arrangements, augment them with a big-band sound.
The rock-tempo "Everytime I Hear That Mellow Saxophone" and "Blow Wind Blow" have Latin beats, and the originals, "Gotta Get Next To You" and "Hurry On Back," and the final cut, "Any Other Way," are 1960s R&B with horn riffing.
The lone instrumental, "Ken's Boogie," written by keyboardist Ken Strange, is a traditional piano boogie that also incorporates horns and the amplified harp of guest Mitch Kashmar.
Tasty guitar solos from Larry Nass are featured on "Since I Found You," "Hurry On Back," "You Upsets Me" and "Any Other Way." Ken Strange's organ and piano are an integral part of the group's sound, and drive the music in tandem with the dynamic horn section. The vocals of Joe Wilson on 11 of the tracks, those of Craig Thomas on two, with co-lead on one, and Jim Hochanadel are expressive and properly emotive.
The R&B Bombers will appear in Indianapolis at the Jazz Kitchen (54th and College) on June 12, 2009. They will be an act no one will want to miss. For more info on the group, as well as ordering information for the CD, go to the band's Web site.
George Fish can be reached at email@example.com.
George Fish also reviews blues CDs for the online national blues magazine Blues Blast. Read his reviews in the Feb. 19, Feb. 26 and April 2 issues. Free subscriptions to Blues Blast are available from .