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Adam & Stilwagen – Tippy’s Barn

Time: 44:52

Big Jim Adam and John Stilwagen offer their own refreshing take on the blues with the release of Tippy’s Barn.

It’s a little bit of everything that the duo steals from the past. There’s some New Orleans hoodoo mixed with Mississippi swamp water. Add a little bootleg whiskey and you have the ingredients necessary for a great juke joint party. Once you enter you’ll never want to leave.

The title cut itself is a great boogie-woogie affair with Silwagen’s keyboard recalling Professor Longhair who happened to have a chance meeting with Honey Piazza. Most of the material is original and taps into a backwoods briar patch of American roots music.
Like other contemporaries Rory Block, John Hammond, Paul Geremia, and Roy Book Binder, Adam and Stilwagen seem intent on pursuing their vision of how the blues is meant to be played. Their music would be right at home on an acoustic stage at the King Biscuit Blues Festival.

And though the Foster/Jordan number “I’d Rather Go Blind” has been covered by many other artists, it is Stilwagen’s piano playing that elevates the song into its own blue heaven.

Checking out their website, the Colorado Blues Society sent these guys to the 2011 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Most likely it couldn’t have been a better choice. Their music is a Memphis barbeque best served up with a slab of ribs and an ice cold pitcher of Bud.

Listening to these guys you can’t help but feel the influence of The Band, Little Feat and The Radiators. But these gentlemen can’t be labeled as copycats because the sound is uniquely their own.

There is nothing flashy about the guitar work of Jim Adams. The playing is rhythmic at best and works in service to the song. Stillwagen’s keyboard may be in the foreground but Big Jim’s guitar can’t be ignored especially in “Work Till The Sun Goes Down” that smacks of the essence of the hill country with his whiskey drenched guitar lines.

Checking out their touring itinerary on their website, the stops included take place in Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico. People who catch them there can consider themselves lucky. They don’t seem to be heading south which is a shame. Family ties can be preventing these men on spreading the gospel and it’s a gospel that needs to be preached. A listen to the airy “John Thayer” with what sounds like mournful dobro playing stands on its own merits of a tune best having its place at a campfire surrounded by soldiers of the Civil War.
There are probably not too many duos on the circuit willing to present a bare-knuckled approach to the music without a full band blasting in the background. This duo may not have a problem in pulling it off. The music is entertaining enough and doesn’t come off as politically incorrect.

Listener’s wishing to embrace old traditions will want to seek this out. If you’re looking for blues rock, than you’ve come to the wrong neighborhood. But if you are seeking a kinship with Professor Longhair or looking for a backwoods juke joint to indulge in bootleg whiskey, Tippy’s Barn is a good place to start as anything else. Those who are in love with real roots music will have no qualms of kicking back on a recliner with a bourbon on ice and in their mind imagine they are on the back-porch of a shotgun shack where hickory smoke floats in the air and somewhere down the road a traveling musician will be making a stop to play for his next meal.

Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.

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