Thursday, November 26, 2009
Mitch KASHMAR With Jr. Watson - Nickels & Dimes 2005
A bluesman toils for decades, respected and admired by his peers and fans, but because he usually stays close to home, and releases only a scant few recordings (now collector's items), he mostly flies under the radar of the blues world at large. Along the way he develops his own style, carrying on the tradition but taking it to the next logical step and making it his own. He refines his music, honing it into something finer than a craft, truly taking it to the level of art. He's able to make a living creating the music that he loves, but remains mostly an unfamiliar name outside his locality.
Then along comes a fan who makes it his mission to let the world know what the locals have known all along. Finally the bluesman's "big break" is at hand, and he takes the place he's earned, and long deserved, among the pantheon of celebrated and influential blues names.
It's a story that goes back to the early days of the first blues revival in the early 1960s...except that it's happening right now, in 2005.
Mitch Kashmar is one of the finest blues singers and harp players in the world today, and a gifted songwriter to boot. But despite unanimous rave reviews for his years of performances on the stages of clubs and festivals up and down the West Coast - and no fewer than fourteen foreign countries - the big breakthrough he's deserved for long has eluded him until now. Which is not to say he's deservedly obscure - just ask the harshest critics of all, his fellow blues musicians. He's shared the stage with some of the biggest names in blues over the years, including Big Joe Turner, Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson, Lowell Fulson, Jimmy Witherspoon, John Lee Hooker, Pee Wee Crayton, and Johnny Adams, among others. Kim Wilson - no slouch on harp or vocals himself - offered this assessment: "Oh man, is he tough!" Charlie Musselwhite: "Your playing and singing are superb." John Hammond: "...unbelievable; a great singer and up there with the best harp players I've ever heard." And the late William Clarke had this to say: "Out of all the younger generation of blues harp players, Mitch Kashmar is my favorite. He's also a first-class vocalist -- his singing really knocks me out." And Stevie Ray Vaughan paid what must be the ultimate compliment from one musician to another: "Can I sit in?" They've all known what the rest of the blues world is about to find out: Mitch Kashmar is a force to be reckoned with in the blues.
"Nickles and Dimes" is not Mitch's first release, but it is certain to be his breakthrough into the mainstream of the blues world. Delta Groove Productions head Randy Chortkoff, one of the West Coast blues scene's movers and shakers for many years, has been a longtime fan and friend of Kashmar. Under Chortkoff's expert guidance Mitch has been teamed up with his longtime friend and collaborator Junior Watson, plus the all-star rhythm section of Richard Innes and Ronnie James Weber, and pianist Bob Welsh. Watson is well-known to blues fans worldwide as the dean of west coast blues guitarists; he was one of the first, and certainly the most influential, to blend gritty Chicago blues with the jazzy sophistication of players such as T-Bone Walker and Pee Wee Crayton. In the process, he created a virtual blueprint for succeeding generations of West Coast guitarists, and pioneered the blues style now known as "West Coast Swing." What Watson is to the guitar, Richard Innes is to drums; it would be far easier to list those he hasn't played with over the last four decades than those he has. His unerring sense of balance between subtle swing and driving power are legendary, and has made him the drummer of choice among those in the know since the late 1960s. Weber is one of the few bass players to completely master both old-school stand-up bass it's modern, funky electric counterpart, making him the perfect choice for this band. And Welsh brings the excitement and enthusiasm of youth to his mastery of the piano styles of such icons as Otis Spann and Lloyd Glenn. The end result of this outstanding combination of talent is one of the deepest-rooted, hardest-swinging, funkiest blues outfits you're likely to come across - and one that is perfectly tailored to Mitch Kashmar's finely honed blues blend of old school tradition and modern power and sophistication.
Also making guest appearances here are two bona fide blues legends: Arthur Adams and Abu Talib, both incredibly versatile guitarists and singers with long and varied resumés. Adams began playing blues and gospel in the 1950s, and over the years branched out into session work that has resulted in his guitar being heard on literally hundreds of high-profile recordings by artists as diverse as the Jackson Five, B.B. King, the Jazz Crusaders, and comedian Bill, among many others, in addition to an impressive discography of his own releases going back to the early 1960s. Abu Talib (formerly known as Freddy Robinson) was a member of blues harp icon Little Walter's band in the late '50s, and recorded for Chess in Chicago both as a leader and sideman in the 1960s (he's on Howlin' Wolf's "Back Door Man", "Spoonful" and "Wang Dang Doodle.") His fleet-fingered and sophisticated guitar work later earned him a place in the bands of Ray Charles and John Mayall, among others, along with a lengthy series of releases under his own name beginning in the mid 1960s.
Of course all this impressive company would be for pointless without a strong frontman, but Mitch ably proves he's more than up to the task. He's one of the most soulful and powerful blues singers in the business today, black or white. Add deep-rooted blues harp playing that is second to none for creativity, drive and excitement. And on top of that, he's also a witty and imaginative songwriter, as he displays on the seven originals included here. Season the whole mix with a few decades of experience as a bandleader, and the end result is one of the most exciting blues releases of the year. So sit back, turn it up, and make the "discovery" for yourself - Mitch Kashmar is the real deal.
Mitch Kashmar- Vocals, Harmonica;
Arthur Adams, Abu Talib- Vocals, Guitar;
Bob Welsh- Guitar, Piano;
Jr. Watson- Guitars;
Ronnie James Weber- Double Bass, Bass Guitar;
Richard Innes- Drums;
Randy Chortkoff- Background Vocals.
01. Dirty Deal 4:02
02. Nickels & Dimes 5:49
03. New York Woman 3:33
04. Just Show It To Me 3:40
05. Lizzy Mae 4:46
06. Gettin' Drunk 3:24
07. Becky Ann 4:29
08. Knock 'em Dead 3:35
09. I Don't Play 2:17
10. Whiskey Drinkin' Woman 5:12
11. We're Sittin' Home Tonight 4:28
12. Who 4:04
13. Runnin' Off At The Mouth 4:32