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Bottom Up Blues Gang - Handle It

Blue Skunk Music

10 tracks

This is the third album for this St. Louis-based band. I really like the St. Louis-New Orleans styled music, with a good brass section and honky-tonk approach to their music. They tour heavily, about 225 shows a year, with 1/3 at home, 1/3 in the Big Easy and the last third across the country. The official “band” is just Kari Liston and Jeremy Segal-Moss. They share vocal duties while Kari does kazoo, whistle and percussion and Jeremy plays guitar. Fifteen other artists share the studio with them on bass, harp, piano, guitar, percussion, organ, and various horn section instruments. All the songs but one are original and show their skills in songwriting.

Kari’s vocals are down home and authentic. She has a great, nasal drawl and vocal quality that makes her singing evocative and interesting. She is gritty and earthy, and can be sexy and sultry or just in your face and bold; I really enjoyed listening to her! Jeremy fills in here and there; it is mostly Kari’s “show” fronting the band vocally. “Lover Foe” is one cut where they share the vocals and the duet sounds like something you’d hear on a porch in Mississippi or Louisiana, with both of them trading off and singing together and then letting Adam Andrews do his dirty work on the harp. The three of them give us a very real and guttural performance that could be today or 100 years ago but good nonetheless.

They open the discs with “South Broadway Blues”, and by the time the song is over you know you are in for an old time treat. Kari sings and whistles as Jeremy play guitar, Matt Murdick strokes the keys and Dawn Weber plays trumpet. It blends well and sets the stage for 9 more interesting cuts. Kari opens the next with her kazoo as Murdick bounces up and down the keyboard. “First of May” is another great cut, this time with Jak Jurzak on tuba, Charlie Halloran on trombone, and Aurora Nealand on soprano sax. It sounds complex, balanced and very cool in a New Orleans brassy sort of way; the sax really “sells” the overall sound of the song. They only use a bass (upright or electric) on half of the tracks, but Joey Glynn and Sharon Foehner/Tom Maloney respectively do a great job adding to the mix on songs like “New World Blues” and the cover, Ray Charles’ “Drown in My Own Tears”. The Hammond B3 on track 4 by Nathan Hershey along with the trumpet and added percussion and guitar (Joe Meyer and Tony Esterly) gives the cut a “bigness” the other tracks don’t have- it fills in and grabs you by the throat and says, “I’m here!” Very well done! The only person I did not mention was Eric McSpadden who adds his harp on one track, “New World Blues”; Andrews is featured on harp as noted and on 4 other cuts and both are excellent.

The disc is packed in a very cool and old time looking cardboard wrapper. The packing and layout are nice and includes a fold-out set of lyrics. I am happy to have been acquainted with these musicians and hope to hear more from them. They are a fun group with a cool sound. If you like an old-time sound done right, this band and CD are for you!

Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program.

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