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Big Papa and the TCB - Dance with the Devil (Double CD)

Dream Pickle Music

Electric Disc: 10 songs; 40:20 minutes, Acoustic Disc: 10 songs; 39:02 minutes

Rating: Splendid

Styles: Modern Electric Blues; Traditional Acoustic Blues; Blues-Rock; Jump Blues; “Back Alley Brawlin' Rhythm 'n' Blues;” “Rock ‘N’ Swing”

What do fans of the Super Bowl, Electric Blues, and Acoustic Blues have in common? Quite possibly, Big Papa and the TCB. This award winning California band had their song “Go Big Papa” featured in a Papa John’s Pizza commercial during the NFL’s 44th premiere game. And, the band’s fourth and latest CD has two discs of the same ten songs, one electric and one acoustic.
Chris "Big Papa" Thayer has been performing on the Southern California scene since 1990. As the front man of the River City Blues Band he got a first class seasoning in Blues guitar.

In 2006 he was nominated for the Inland Empire Music Awards in the “Best Male Vocalist” category. Shortly thereafter, he hooked up with several like-minded fellows who became “The TCB (Taking Care of Business)”. Laying down the low stuff is blues veteran Steve “Ice Cream Man” Brown on bass. Ray “Mr. Pittz” Wilson is the sticks and skins man gluing it all together.

These award winners have also recently had two songs appear in the hit A&E TV series, “Breakout Kings.” They won “Best Song” and “Best Blues Album” at the 2008 Inland Empire Music Awards for their second CD, “12 Gauge Insurance Plan.” Their first disc, Nice ‘N’ Greazy” won three 2007 IEMAs including “Best Live Band,” “Best Blues Album” and “Best Song.” Further, they were nominated for “Best Swing” in the 2008 Orange County Music Awards.

Their latest CD, “Dance with the Devil” was mastered by Grammy Award winning Robert Hadley of the Mastering Labs. Of the ten songs, eight are Thayer originals surrounding two covers: Lowell Fulson’s “Bending Like a Willow Tree” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Evil,” oddly credited to “M. Morganfield” [Muddy Waters] instead of correct song author Willie Dixon. While not breaking any new ground, the songwriting certainly meets contemporary standards of excellence.

The first disc’s songs are performed in their "electrified" versions featuring plenty of hot, slide guitar, and the second features the same songs in an old school, stripped down acoustic style. Jumpin’ Jack Benny Cortez adds tasty harp to four of the acoustic versions while Spiro Nicolopoules adds acoustic guitar and banjo on a couple.

The discs open with “Play with Fire,” a up-tempo warning that improper handling of love will lead to burn. And, how many times does this irony come true in our lives, track 2, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”?

The real attention grabbers arrive with track 6, the haunting “Dead Wrong.” Performed as a tragic but powerful slow Blues number on both discs, the guitars are outstanding. Marc Gaston helps fill the bottom with tasty organ while Barbara Paul adds some deadly background harmony vocals, and Kelly McGuire adds percussion.

Track 7 is an excellent reading of Fulson’s “Bending Like a Willow Tree” with a wonderful wah-wah guitar solo in the electric set counter-balanced with Gaston’s soloed piano notes.

Track 8 (electric), “The Preacher” will get its first spin on the Friends of the Blues Radio Show in Hour 2 where we like to go completely upbeat, and the slide guitar here is kicking. This “Preacher” gives a bad name to all men of the cloth just like Rock and Roll gave 1950s music a bad name.

Track 9 tells about a female just the way most guys like them, a combination of “Naughty and Nice.” She’s got “an innocent smile, but there’s danger in those eyes.” This mid-tempo vehicle allows for plenty of workout on each instrument, especially guitar.

A first rate production and effort with some really good songs. Check out this hot band’s latest 2-CD package complete with a 16 page liner with photos. It reflects plenty of effort and professionalism and gives listeners unprecedented choice. 

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

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