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Various Artists – Blues From The Burgh III

Blues Society Of Western Pennsylvania 2012

15 tracks; 64.45 minutes

I had never heard any of the acts featured on this compilation and it demonstrates that Pittsburgh must have a lot of blues going on, given that this is the third edition in this series of snapshots of the local blues scene in Pittsburgh! Whilst there are inevitably some acts that are not to one’s individual taste there is a wide variety of material here. I’ll pick out a few that appealed to me.

Pick of the bunch for me was Jill West And Blues Attack whose track “Bye Bye Baby” is the longest on the album, a bonus as the band has lots going on that we want to hear. The two guitarists bring some T-Bone Walker riffs to the party and there is some superb piano too. Vocalist Jill has that classic, smooth approach of the great singers of yesteryear and the whole piece is terrific. Another quite retro sound comes from the wonderfully named Rumpshakers whose “Shake It Up” has that jump sound backed with some excellent horn charts. The other track with horns finds an extended band called Wayne And Wild Root on “I Can’t Change”: the band has three horn players and two background vocalists and the track has some great sounds but was marred for me by a fake opening with scratchy sound (trying to sound like an old 78 perhaps) for the first 45 seconds before we shift to modern sonic values and a tough production with lots of horns and harp.

There is plenty of blues rock material here too and I liked opening act Shot O’ Soul whose “Blues On A Budget” has some clever lyrics about coping with the current tough economic times and an insistent guitar riff. In similar vein The Igniters discuss “Food, Phone And Gas”, the key requirements for the working blues band trying to get along. Some good harmonies were an added bonus on this one.

Acoustic blues is not forgotten. These range from the solo efforts of Chris Yacopcic in a real country blues “Done Lost My Freedom” to Gary Prisby whose “Put The Blame On Me” has some nice electric guitar supporting Gary’s acoustic work. Harp and guitar duo Izzy And Chris produce “Steady Rollin’ Daddy” which, in its laid back way, has some clear links to Robert Johnson’s “Steady Rollin’ Man”.
Overall this is a great way to let the rest of us know what is happening on the Pittsburgh blues scene. Kudos to the BSWPA for their good work.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.


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