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Barrelhouse Bob Page - Smokin’ 88’s

Hottrax Records

17 tracks/63:08

Bob Page is a piano player with influences that run from Fats Waller and Albert Ammons to Otis Spann. His latest independent release features his rock-steady keyboard work surrounded by a supporting cast of seventeen different musicians including four guitarists, two bass players, four drummers and seven horn players. The cd booklet supplies a handy chart that simplifies figuring out who is playing on which track. Page maintains continuity in the overall sound despite the rotating musical support. He also handles all of the lead vocals with a smooth voice that is easy to listen to but lacks the range and power needed to hold your attention through all seven=teen tracks. Page also composed all seventeen songs.

Highlights include “Double Barrel Boogie”, with Page tearing up the keyboard with his right hand over a strong rhythm from his left hand, and “I Must Be Crazy”, which includes a brief duel between Pete Collins on clarinet and Roger “Hurricane” Wilson on guitar. Page turns in a convincing vocal on “Hangover Blues” and shows he is a master of the barrelhouse piano style. A horn section of Barney Balch on trombone, Collins on clarinet and Dick Creedon on coronet spark the good-time jazz tune “I Got a Lesson for You”, with Page adding some piano runs in the stride style.

The majority of the setlist is comprised of tracks with medium and up-tempo rhythms. On “Lonesome”, Page slows the pace, backed by Bill Burke on bass and Butch Cooper on drums. He punctuates his mournful singing with some runs on the upper register of the piano. A couple of tracks, like “Too Many People on my Farm”, suffer from lightweight lyrics and arrangements too similar to stronger tracks on the disc.

Page has put together a solid release that makes it clear that he is well versed in the blues piano tradition. With the number of musicians involved, it had to be difficult maintain the focus throughout the recording process. Page certainly delivers plenty of tasty piano and provides enough variety to keep your interest from start to finish. Fans of blues piano should give Barrelhouse Bob a listen.

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL


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