Friday, June 6, 2008

Rusty Zinn

Rusty Zinn & The Roadmasters


Featuring Kim Wilson

Bluebeat Music

They may be calling themselves the Roadmasters, but Larry Taylor, Richard Innes and Fred Kaplan have been around doing this stuff as long as I've been listening to this stuff--and that's a long time. At one point they WERE the Hollywood Fats Band and were laying the best trad-blues ensemble this side of the Fabulous Thunderbirds during the late '70s/early '80s, cranking on the same groove with a guitarist as steeped in the genre as Jimmy Vaughn and with chops to match. Since that time they have carried on from time to time as the Hollywood Blue Flames or have backed up everybody who's anybody as an ensemble, pairs, or as a single addition for those needing it laid on right. On this live release they are members of Rusty Zinn's band at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz, California on August 2, 1996 and thanks to Charlie Lange of Bluebeat Music, who decided that this would make a great initial release for his label, we have one heck of a night of blues music captured on disc for the rest of us to enjoy.

Rusty Zinn caught my attention back in '93 as the young whipper-snapper that Kim Wilson snared to supply some of the guitar tones on one of his finest releases, Tigerman. Zinn kind of came out of nowhere, but soon proved to be masterful at channeling everything from the West Coast swing, to Texas twang, B.B.'s groove and all points in between. In Wilson's employ, he quickly added That's Life to his resume before setting his own course with the release of the critically acclaimed Sittin' and Waitin' which showcased his high and lonesome vocals along with his skills on the six string. He followed this up later in the decade with the release of Confessin' which provided even more of a glimpse of the variety of styles in his arsenal. All these guitar moments are on display on this live shot of that decade with solos and rhythms that stretch out on songs that are seldom less that five minutes. He's got the chops to keep it interesting throughout the recording, though. Case in point is the second cut, Rock With Me Tonight which clocks in at 9:43. He quotes everyone from Gatemouth to T-Bone to Johnny & Jr. Watson to Albert Collins and makes it all work as a cohesive piece of music. He absolutely smokes on I Can Tell and gets licks going that maybe really defines his style, but he's such a chameleon that it hard to tell where his influences leave off and he begins. The only tune featuring his plaintive vocals is his pleads to his girl on How Long, on which he proves that he can hang with the featured vocalist for these sets.

Which brings me to the: featuring Kim Wilson in the title. Yeah, right! This may be Rusty's band during this stretch, but these guys have all backed up Wilson on his previous outings in one way or another from Tigerman through his live album, Smokin' Joint. Zinn, Taylor and Innes are HIS band for the live cuts from the Rhythm Room and the Taylor/Innes rhythm section hold down the bottom on tunes from the Cafe Boogaloo on the Smokin' Joint release and some of the same songs show up here. So these guys are as much about what Kim Wilson was doing during the '90s as he was and this is as much of a Kim Wilson (or more) live disc as it is a Rusty Zinn one. Which is fine and dandy with me, because I bought the cd because Kim was on it (I know, I know-enough about Kim Wilson already) and I recognized many of the tunes as those associated with KW's output more so than with Zinn's.

And on that point, this disc definitely does not disappoint. In MY opinion, this is the best live Kim Wilson that you can get your hands upon. I've already mentioned the stretched out lengths of the songs, so just guess what the man can imagine to do with all that time on his harp. I mean, I felt the opening cut, Don't Bite The Hand That Feeds You, was a strange place to put his tour de force until he kicked off Rock With Me Tonight with what I was sure going to be an instrumental until he gave his harp a breather to sing a few lines. That's basically how it goes with this disc, a Zinn/Wilson throw down with the occasional tasty piano riffs that Fred Kaplan gets going--especially on the intro to I Ain't Gonna Do It and the tone setting touches on I'm Trying. I'm not going to go into to a blow by blow (or suck by suck) description of what Kim's doing at Moe's Alley, because if you're familiar with Kim Wilson then you know what he's doing--blowing the roof off the place with tunes from Tigerman, That's Life and My Blues. When he's not doing it, then Zinn is and if you're not familiar with Kim Wilson, then this is a good place to start. Thanks Charlie! Oh and get it exclusively at Anyway--


Anonymous said...

great blog, and I too am a kim wilson fan. the record company website includes many recordings I've not seen. another way to get separated from my money.
thanks again.
Dean (portland)

Mike Lynch said...

Tigerman is my favorite Kim Wilson disc - great stuff!

Ricky Bush said...

Hey Anon--

Thanks for the comments! You'll love the Rusty Zinn disc. Kim gets it going--big time. Need get RJ's too if you don't have his stuff.

Hey Mike--

Thanks again for tapping in and go get the Rusty Zinn if you like what Kim was doing mid-'90s.

See ya---