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Albert Bashor – Cotton Field Of Dreams

Earwig Music

14 tracks; 57.52 minutes

Albert Bashor (pronounced Bayshore) will be a new name for most of us but he is far from a novice on the music scene, the Florida native having played in bands, solo and duo for many years. This, however, is his first record under his own name and owes a lot to an old connection to Earwig label boss Michael Frank who was interested in signing Albert way back in 1993, only for Albert’s then duo act to break up. Albert has been writing songs for years and one on this record was previously recorded by Lonnie Brooks in 1996 after Albert handed Bruce Iglauer a copy of the song when Bruce was recording Kenny Neal at a Florida studio.

In 2010 Albert met up again with Michael Frank and the idea for this CD was born. The material is all Albert’s. Albert plays acoustic guitar throughout and electric guitar on one track, electric guitar duties being covered by a variety of players, including Pat Travers on one track. Ron Holloway adds his saxophone to five tracks (all recorded separately in Virginia) and through a Facebook connection Albert met up with Little Feat’s Bill Payne who ended up playing keyboards on most of the album. Drums are by Chicago veteran Willie ‘The Touch’ Hayes though there are several tracks without drums. Recordings were made both in Florida and in Illinois and the album was produced by Michael Franks and Lynn Orman Weiss.

The CD opens in electric style with Albert’s vision of Clarksdale “Jukin’ Down On Johnson Street”, a song influenced by Albert’s visit to Clarksdale and the crossroads where Honeyboy Edwards met Robert Johnson in 1937. The song recorded by Lonnie Brooks follows – “Rockin’ Red Rooster” – and it’s a really strong song led by powerful slide guitar, an effective vocal by Albert and some additional piano and sax from Bill Payne and Ron Holloway. Whilst the story behind “Poodle Ribs” is interesting I did not really want Albert to recount the tale as a track on the album but I imagine that most of us will fast forward at that point! The tale of a BBQ place that was accused of using dogs for their BBQ ribs is interesting, as is the term ‘hot as Tucker’ which is also explained in Albert’s monologue. The song itself is a funky piece enlivened by Holloway’s screaming sax. I also liked “So Blue” which has Willie Hayes using brushes on a jazz inflected piece and some lovely acoustic guitar. Shay Jones shares vocals with Albert and the whole song is really well done.

The rest of the album dispenses with drums but not with rhythm! In some of the songs the acoustic guitar acts as the rhythm, as in “Tater Diggin’ Woman”, an amusing song in which it quickly becomes apparent that Albert is not talking about vegetable gardening here! The album has considerable variation in style and pace: “One Last Time” is a simple ballad, played beautifully on acoustic guitars and embellished by Shay Jones’ harmony vocal; “Put Me On Like You Do” is far more of a classic blues with harp and slide guitar presenting the sad tale; “Fetch Me” may not have drums but with Bill Payne’s organ and Pat Travers electric guitar chugging along with Albert’s acoustic guitar they are hardly missed.

The title song “Cotton Field Of Dreams” is the centerpiece of the album. Albert plays electric guitar here and provides a brooding sound behind his vocal which describes how some of the early bluesmen might have tackled that initial journey from the fields to urban Chicago. It’s an impressive song, further enhanced by some more of Ron Holloway’s superb sax playing. Ron also plays on the final song, a touching ballad entitled “Lucky Man”. The remaining tracks are mostly in the stripped down format, like “No Place Like Home”, just Albert’s guitar and Bill Payne’s organ setting the background to Albert’s tale of travelling around but always wanting to get back home and “Seeing Eye Dog Blues” on which Michael Frank adds harp.

This is an interesting album which covers quite a lot of ground from acoustic to electric blues with stopping points in folk, jazz and pop. Albert Bashor has a lot of talent and demonstrates his range here. I would be very interested to see him in live performance but meanwhile this CD is definitely worth investigating.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and enjoyed the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in April.

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