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Boom Boom Steve V & the Knockouts - Tuff Love

Quality: Highly Recommended

Style: Post-War Harp-Driven Blues

From the opening original tune, "Come Out Swinging," to the set-ending "Sad Hours," Tuff Love offers up 10 cuts of harp-fueled blues courtesy of Boom Boom Steve, one of the mainstays on the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota blues scene. Boom Boom Steve is an in-demand harp player in the Twin Cities blues community, and he regularly performs at Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society benefits like Septemberís Blues Harp Extravaganza. I met Boom Boom Steve several years ago through my day job (, and was pleased to meet a kindred spirit in the blues. His new CD, like the name of his band, is a knockout.

In 1952, Little Walter had a number one hit with "Juke," and "Sad Hours" landed in second place on the charts that same year. I especially liked the fat-toned, upbeat "When I Was Young," and the straight-ahead driving blues of the title cut; proof positive that Steve V & the Knockouts are in full command of some tasty original blues mixed in with a few reverential covers. The engine room of Dwight Dario on drums and John Schroder on bass keep the groove moving, and when they arenít playing as Knockouts, theyíre behind local blues players like the Twin Citiesí Big George Jackson. Guitarist John Franken, an alumnus of the local Joel Johnson Band, expertly plays a number of styles on this CD, from Texas-tinged blues, post-war Chicago blues, and the West Coast-flavored "From Stardom to Obscurity" - while Iíve never heard John play before listening to Tuff Love, I think that heíd be considered a "guitaristsí guitarist" for his diverse approaches to the blues on this CD.

Guest Knockouts on this CD include Bruce McCabe on piano and Wurlitzer (he burns up the keys on Lester Butlerís "HNC"), Jeremy Johnson on guitar on the covers of Little Walterís "Sad Hours" and "Come Back Baby," and Mark "Good Time" Williams pitching in background vocals on the title tune. The CD closes with a nod to Little Walter, with Boom Boom Steve taking the Mississippi saxophone to new heights on the "Sad Hours" instrumental. Iíd like to think that Little Walter would have appreciated and enjoyed this cover version of this song, and I canít give it any higher praise than that.

This Fall, I had the great pleasure of seeing Boom Boom Steve play live with the Fabulous Minnesota Barking Ducks (a band with a considerable legacy in the Twin Citiesí blues community) at the Whiskey Junction in Minneapolis (, and I highly recommend Boom Boom Steve and this venue (great pizza, great staff!).

Reviewer Eric Steiner is the President of the Washington Blues Society, a proud recipient of a Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation. Please contact Eric at  or visit for more information on the Washington Blues Society

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