Saturday, May 17, 2008

Barrelhouse Chuck

Barrelhouse Chuck

And The All-Star Blues Band

Got My Eyes On You

The Sirens Records

Since I'm on a Kim Wilson jag after the T-Bird's gig, figured that I'd put my two cents in as to what I think is one of his finest examples of recorded Chicago style blues harp. When called upon, he plays an incredible sideman and has done so with Jimmy Rogers, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin and many others. I mentioned to him, at the gig posted below, that when anyone asks me now about Chicago bluesharp, that I just tell them to listen to Barrelhouse Chuck's newest release. His eyes lit up, he smiled and exclaimed, "Yeah, that's a good one!"
Anyone who calls themselves a fan of piano blues music knows that Chuck Goering, better known as Barrelhouse Chuck, has been hammering the keys around the Chicago area for decades. They also know that he has been intent on carrying on the tradition of the great Chicago bluesmen that influenced him to move to the Windy City from Florida many moons ago.

This disc is a tribute to, not only some of his piano mentors such as Sunnyland Slim, Memphis Slim, Detroit Junior, Big Moose Walker and Little Brother Montgomery, but also to the soundscape of the music itself and his friends who have passed on that were instrumental in it's creation. He covers tunes by the aforementioned piano giants and Floyd Jones, Big Smokey Smothers, Eddie Taylor and Muddy Waters. The music moves from the ensemble playing of the '50s with piano and harp leading the way, to the early '60s sounds that added guitar solos to the mix with a little organ layered upon it. By employing Muddy alumni, Calvin "Fuzz" Jones and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, to hold down the bottom end and throwing ringers like Joel Foy, Eddie Taylor Jr. and Wilson into the mix he is able to get away with the "And The All-Star Blues Band" title. I don't imagine that he had to do a heck of a lot of explaining in the studio with these cats in tow.

Not many discs kick off with instrumentals, but Chuck's piano leads into Floyd's Blues with Kim's fat toned harp boosting the rhythm and throwing down tasty leads that weave around the groove and sets the tone for what follows. Goering orchestrates much like a veteran conductor. Sometimes his piano is the focus, such as on the double-fisted hammering he gets going on Memphis Slim's Mother Earth, but he allows Eddie Taylor Jr.'s guitar picking just as much space on the tune. On Big Brother Montgomery's Mama You Don't Mean Me No Good, one assumes that it is he that is doing the ivory tickling, but he turns that duty over to Elko Izumi-Gallwas and just sings the tune. I really don't mean to say "just" sings, because Chuck really floored me with his vocals each time that he opened his mouth and let loose in a voice packed with emotion. He gets especially deep into it on Floyd Jones' School Days (with Kim playing some great 1st position harp) and Muddy Waters' Just To Be With You, which I've never heard anyone but Muddy sing better--he nails it and Wilson puts on a Chicago bluesharp clinic on this one. He turns the vocals over to Eddie Jr. for senior's Big Town Playboy, an absolute highlight for me because I'd never heard Jr. sing or play and felt he may just be one of those siblings jumping in to capitalize on the name. Teaches me to jump to conclusion--he's for real.

Chuck even sits out entirely on Cleo's Mood, which showcases Mr. Wilson and just what chops he chooses to amaze us with and allows Joel Foy and Eddie Jr. to strech out and bounce lead riffs off each other. Both guitarist have such a feel for this type of music and are given ample and equal opportunities to shine. Joel is featured pretty heavily on his own instrumental Red River Rhumba, that he puts a minor feel Albert Collins' spin to and has Kim moving exquisitely from chromatic harp to diatonic and back again.

Oh, I guess I could go on and on with the gushing accolades regarding the musicianhip on each and every tune, but trust me "they ain't no clunkers" here and it pretty much has it all, regardless of whether one's taste leans towards piano, guitar, harmonica or just some well sung blues. For one of the best modern productions of Chicago blues, pick up Barrelhouse Chuck's Got My Eyes On You. Anyway--


Mike Lynch said...

I haven't seen Barrelhouse Chuck since he played with the Seattle band Blue Lights in the late '70s. A great player and totally dedicated to the blues. Keep an eye out for a blog on Jet City Blues about the Blue Lights Band in the near future.

Ricky Bush said...

Okie Dokie, Mike. Pick up his Got My Eyes On You if you like KW's playing.

See ya--