Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Falling Through The Cracks

Doug Deming
and The Jewel Tones

Falling Through The Cracks
Mighty Tiger Records
MTD 601

The title cut of Doug Deming's newest release kind of sums up my relationship with his music--he's basically fallen through the cracks of my listening habits. I've known about him for years, due basically because of his affinity to record with harmonica players on board (surprise!), but I've never bought any of his stuff, even though Fingers Taylor, Kim Wilson, and Dennis Gruenling have all recorded and gigged with him. That in itself lends a bit of legitimacy to his music; in my book, anyway.

But, the closest that I've come to Doug Deming is to sample his samples on-line, and I guess that his vocals are what has kept me from springing for his CDs. Don't get me wrong here, the man can sing and has nice chops. Too nice--for the blues, though, I always felt. What convinced me to finally grab one of his discs in the fact that the words Special Guests Kim Wilson and Dennis Gruenling are printed on the cover (surprise! again), so I just couldn't resist this time. I mean, anyone who has had enough respect for the blues harp guys, to keep including them on his releases,just begs for my support. Glad I made that decision.

On the program of fifteen well composed originals, Gruenling blows his deep toned licks on three of the cuts, beginning with the rockabilly style opener, Tonight Is The Night. I know I use "deep tone" too much, but Gruenling does get the deepest, bassiest, tones this side of Big Walter when he lays it down. He provides some great comping and backing rhythm on this tune, and then Deming just lets him loose to rip into a solo with plenty of innovative ideas. Then he gives Gruenling much more space on East Side Hop , which is the typed of jump blues which Dennis Gruenling excels at blowing on big chromatic harmonica, with horn lines more in line with a tenor sax player than a harmonica dude. Sounds to me as if Deming wrote this instrumental with DG in mind.

Kim Wilson is employed on the more straight forward, down in the alley style of blues, such as on the ChiTown shuffle grooves of Only Time Will Tell. No one nails it down like Wilson does. The addition of Al Hill's Spann type piano runs helps flesh out that feel. Again, Deming lets the harp player run with it, and Wilson does his thing. Nothing inventive or new, just Kim Wilson doing it better than anyone in the business. He and Deming do just a duo with some deep slow blues called Don't Worry Me Pt.2, which is a heck of a showcase for Wilson's harp.

Not one of the advertised features, but no less talented, is Dave Morris. Morris earned his blues harp stripes in Big Dave and the Ultrasonics, a successful regional blue outfit led by guitarist, Dave Steele. He rips a boogie woogie on Don't Worry Me Pt. 1, which of course out tempos Pt.2 by a mile. Morris plays some likety split and go licks that helps propel the rave up. He also proves he knows his way around a chromatic on Put It Down, which Deming starts off with a swampy Creedance Clearwater type of riff.

Okay, okay, what about Doug Deming? The man can throw down on guitar with a variety of styles--he does the rockabilly on the opener, gets a really nice, reverbed Magic Sam vibe going on the title cut, which features the core trio of Jewel Tones of Deming, Bob Conner (bass),and Julian VanSlyke (drums). This cut probably sums up the band the best for me--because it's just them, without the featured guests or in the case of on It Was The Wine, a full blown band with piano, tenor/baritone sax, and trombone added. It's on these sophisticated, jive blues (in a Johnny Guitar Watson picking mode) , or on the smoky, jazzy, ballad mood of Every Night When I Get Home on which his vocals work best, but you know, I found his blues singing has grown on me--his darned musicianship just drew me into what he's doing. Anyone who has listened to the blues long enough, can pick out his stylistic influences, but he uses them as jumping off points for his own original ideas.

So, if you're in it just for the nine cuts with great harp riffs, go pick out cuts 1,2,4,7,8,9,11,12,&13 and download them, but you might as well spring for the entire package and buy Falling Through The Cracks. I'm going to have to back track and see what Fingers Taylor brought to his previous parties now. Just to see what fell through the cracks. 'Nuff for now.

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