Album Review from BluesBlast Magazine

By John Mitchell

This is the debut release from a band based in Pennsylvania. Formed five years ago, the band is axed round experienced guitarist Tim ‘The Perkolator’ Perks and young harmonica player Derek ‘Harmonica Slim’ Matteson, supported by Dave Young on bass and Sean McIntyre on drums; piano is added to three tracks by Adam Darer and B3 to one track by Eric Christian. The CD was produced by another harp player Mikey Junior who contributes some backing vocals alongside recording engineer Peter Richon, Tim, Derek and Dave. Tim and Derek share the lead vocals, Tim on eight songs, Derek on six, with one instrumental. Tim wrote seven songs, Derek three and there are five covers: Willie Dixon, Louis Myers, Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Little Walter– an impressive list indeed! The album was mastered by Dave Gross at his Fat Rabbit Studios in New Jersey.

Tim’s biography reveals that he grew up in England but relocated to the USA years ago. He has played with many local acts and references a host of guitarists in a long list of influences – the Three Kings, T-Bone Walker and Chuck Berry amongst them. Derek only started playing harmonica in his early twenties but after seeing Mikey Junior and Steve Guyger he became obsessed with the instrument. The band’s gig list is extensive and, as well as playing a lot in their local area, they also tour and will be representing the Central Delaware Blues Society at the 2020 International Blues Challenge.

Both front men sing well, Derek having the slightly deeper voice and from the off this is a great release of traditional blues with no overplaying on harp or guitar. The originals are all solid, not a clunker amongst them: check out Derek’s swinging “South Street Shuffle” or his wailing harp on “Here I Am Again”, Tim’s dark and brooding tune which also has a fine guitar solo with hints of latin contained within it. The album opens with the driving “Trying So Hard”, followed by “Going To See My Baby”, a co-write between Derek and producer Mikey, an infectious tune with great rhythm work from Tim and a strong vocal and scintillating harp from Derek.

The band shows it can swing on two shorter tunes, both penned by Tim: “Can’t Keep A Good Man Down” swings like crazy and you can guess what “Jump With You Baby” is going to be from the title, the tune sounding a little like an old Sam Myers/Anson Funderburgh tune. “Sitting And Thinking” has more of a boogie sound over which Derek weaves some great patterns while “Leaving You” bounces along cheerfully, in contrast to the lyrics! Every proper blues band needs to show that it can handle a slow blues and here “Next To You” fits the bill perfectly while Derek’s closing “I’d Like To Thank You All” gives a shout out to the band’s long-term fans and supporters as Derek fires off salvoes of great harp underpinned by frantic piano.

The covers are well chosen to both represent the band’s influences and to offer listeners some tunes they will recognise whilst also avoiding some of the most frequently covered selections. Willie Dixon is represented by “Pretty Thing”, the rhythm section doing a good job with the Bo Diddley riff; “Keep On Loving Me Baby” is the choice from the Otis Rush songbook and Tim achieves a wonderfully light tone here on a fast-paced take; the churning rhythm of Magic Sam’s “Every Night And Every Day” is a great vehicle for some relaxed guitar and impressive harp work; every harp player owes a debt to Little Walter and Derek leads on harp and vocals on “Up The Line” which is the longest track on the album at just under five minutes, allowing Tim to include an excellent, fast-picking solo; Louis Myers’ instrumental “Top Of The Harp” is a feature for Derek.

This is a really enjoyable disc which could well be a contender for debut release of the year. It will certainly appeal to lovers of traditional blues and comes recommended from this reviewer.

 

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the 'soul/blues' category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three 'Kings'. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.