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Big G & the Real Deal - Chicago Blues Party

Toucan Cove/Universal Records

Eric Steiner’s Rating: A Solid Chicago Blues CD

Big G & the Real Deal’s 14-song Chicago Blues Party features tight ensemble playing that effectively represents the halcyon days of post-war Chicago blues. The set kicks off with “Can’t Lose What You Never Had,’ showcasing Tom Albanese’s strong harp attack. The band’s set list is comprised of blues classics, such as “It’s Too Late, Brother,” “Messin’ With the Kid,” “Bring It On Home,” and many other well-known songs from the traditional Chicago blues songbook..

There is quite a deep well of experience on this CD. Producer/keyboard player Phil Balsano was with the rock outfit Tantrum in the 70’s, while Tom Albanese has lent his considerable harp chops to Chicago’s Trouble No More, a band fronted by the late L.C. Walker, and more recently by Deb Seitz. Drummer Tim Scruggs has anchored the 101st Rock Division around the world, and he has shared the stage with Koko Taylor, Dave Mason, and a diverse range of musicians. Bassist Mickey Gentile has played with lead guitarist George “Big G” Millspaugh in the Southern blues band Pearl Handle for over 10 years, and John “Butch” Willard turns in many impressive guitar solos at this party.

While I have these songs from the original artists or from other cover bands, I hope that Chicago Blues Party will help the band get noticed again and return to the Chicago Blues Festival, Buddy Guy’s Legends, or the House of Blues. I’ve heard “Sweet Home Chicago” more times that I can count, but the guys turn in a solid version of this classic – although my favorite version of the former is from Lonnie Brooks on the Alligator-WXRT FM album from 1989, Blues Deluxe. While I may wish that the vocals were stronger from time to time, on balance, Chicago Blues Party features a group of very talented musicians playing some of the finest post-war blues songs with strong ties to Chicago. If you like contemporary covers of classic Chicago blues songs, you’ll enjoy Big G & the Real Deal’s CD. Sample the band at

In doing a little homework on Big G and his band, I ran across an article in Midwest Beat. I was that paper’s blues columnist for several years, and learned from fellow Beat writer Ernie Thomas that their debut 2003 CD, Chicago Nocturne, was released on the YHM label: After listening to Chicago Blues Party release, I’m going to look for this gem, too.

Reviewer Eric Steiner is the President of the Washington Blues Society. The Washington Blues Society is the proud recipient of a 2009 Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation

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