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Al Lerman - Crowe River Blues


13 tracks/50:26

You would think that a musician who has been nominated for several blues music awards and twice won major awards as the leader of acclaimed band would have attained some level of recognition in the US. But receiving nominations for the Maple Blues Awards and winning two Juno Awards, Canada's version of the Grammy, or a career that spans four decades has left Al Lerman flying under the radar for the vast majority of blues listeners.

And that is a shame, as Lerman quickly establishes on his first solo recording. Considered one of the finest blues harp players in Canada, Lerman also plays guitar and saxophone in addition to handling the lead vocals. Over the lazy rhythm of “Suitcase Blues”, he takes his time describing the abrupt end of a love affair, punctuating the proceedings with some fine blowing in the upper register of his harp. The original “Gypsy Feet” is a folk/blues piece about a man with a wandering mind, with Lerman on acoustic guitar. Lerman's skill as a songwriter is on full display on “Blues So Bad I Could Write a Country Song”. The tune works because of the understated humor and some fine piano from Lance Anderson.

“Chugging the Blues” has Lerman overdubbing three distinct harmonica parts to create a mesmerizing instrumental that leaves no doubt that he deserves accolades for his playing. On “Harmonica Gumbo”, he spins a savory batch of variations on the melody of “Iko Iko”. Alec Fraser slaps away on his upright bass on another highlight, the rockabilly-tinged “You're the One” with the leader singing with gusto and laying down some excellent country blues-style harp licks. Anderson's swirling organ chords elevate the funky blues feel on “She Calls Me a River”, which also benefits from some fine cymbal work from drummer Bucky Berger and Lerman's ringing electric guitar licks.

Snooky Pryor's “Judgement Day” is all Lerman on acoustic guitar and harp, singing like a man ready to face the end. The band shows they can rock with an exhilarating romp through “Nobody But Myself To Blame”, complete with Fraser on backing vocals on the catchy refrain while Lerman shows off his skill on the sax and the harp. “Flush Side of Broke” and “Solar Powered Man” suffer a bit in the lyric category but “Broke” is still compelling due to the touch of zydeco created by Anderson on the accordion. Lerman is at his best on “I'm Gone”, another confessional dealing with a break-up.

Throughout the disc, Lerman and his associates inject the music with plenty of enthusiasm and vitality. They make a strong case for paying attention to musicians north of the border, lest we miss out on other outstanding discs like this one. This is a very impressive debut for Al Lerman – one that you should check-out with delay!

Reviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.


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