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Big Shanty - Collection

King Mojo Records

Disc 1 – 9 tracks/43:29   Disc 2 – 10 tracks/43:13

This two-disc set is a compilation of tracks by Big Shanty (aka Dick Wooley), a singer with rough, hard-as-nails voice who also plays a mean slide guitar. Pulled from several studio recordings and one long –out-of-print live disc, some of the cuts are from the Ride with the Wind release, which was named the #1 Blues Album of the Year for 2007 by Real Blues, a Canadian blues publication.

Apparently Big Shanty was an early convert to using the Internet to market his products as he claims to have recorded over 1,000,000 downloads of his music from the King Mojo website. Shanty’s music is described in the press release as “death metal blues” or “heavy metal funk”. He definitely likes to play loud and nasty, with a rough-and-tumble attitude that takes an unflinching look at life in the lyrics to the majority of tunes. Shanty wrote all of the songs, some with the help of various band members with drummer Scott Robertson the primary collaborator. His backing comes from a revolving cast of musicians with the liner notes identifying the line-up on each track.

The first disc starts off with “Whiskey Woman”, a grinding roadhouse rocker, and “Stop Pushing”, with Shanty railing against the constraints of the 9-5 world. Rick Phillip’s Hammond B-3 offers a nice contrast to the twin guitar attack of the leader and Chris Blackwell. Shanty is the sole focus on “They Say It’s Raining” with just Robertson and Dustin Sargent on bass in support. Shanty dials back the intensity and gives “Got a Hold on Me” a sensitive reading while Eddie Jett stretches out on guitar.

The five live cuts quickly prove that Shanty knows how to take charge of a stage and win over the crowd. “Right Combination” is all-out rock & roll given a boost by Rick Phillips on bass sax. The two slow blues, “Queen of Hearts Has Disappeared” and “World of Trouble”, feature Dave Hanbury’s fine lead guitar playing and expressive vocals from Shanty. “Smoke & Mirrors Jam” holds your interest with Hanbury and Dave Ylvisaker on keyboards making solid contributions.

The second disc features plenty of Shanty’s high energy, blues/rock sonic assaults with Liz Melendez shining on guitar on “Killing Fields” and “Uncle Sam Go to Rehab” as Shanty barks out his discontent over the mess politicians have created for all of us. “Living on the Edge of Time” is another dark dirge with Col. Bruce Hampton sitting in on steel guitar. The trouble with the rest of this disc is that most of songs use a few simple phrases for lyrics – and Shanty isn’t compelling enough as a singer to rescue the songs from lyrical boredom.

All in all, there is plenty of value in this package as it can be purchased on-line for less than $13. Big Shanty’s take-no-prisoners approach would certainly be welcome in biker bars and late-night saloons across the country. He has plenty to say and, while it’s not your traditional blues music, it definitely is grounded in travails of modern life.

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

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