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Chris English - 1-13-07

Lowdown Records

16 tracks/66:15

Recorded at the ESO Art Center in Belle Haven, Virginia, the latest from Chris English documents a live performance that includes a number of well-known blues songs and a handful of original tunes. English is an acoustic performer utilizing a resonator guitar, harmonica and an old Coke crate as a percussion instrument. In addition to playing the music, English also teaches a course in blues music at a college in his Maryland hometown.

Opening with “Statesboro Blues”, English quickly establishes that he is an adept slide guitarist. His warm voice can display a rough edge one minute and then capture a mournful quality as it easily slips into a higher register. At times his singing brought John Hammond to mind. Leroy Carr’s “How Long, How Long Blues” receives a subdued run-through with some nice harp work. English covers two Howlin’ Wolf songs, tearing through “Moanin’ at Midnight” as he trades licks between the guitar and harp – then slowing the pace for a powerful version the lesser-known “No Place to Go”.

On “Can’t be Satisfied”, English maintains a strong rhythmic foundation while picking out intricate lines on his guitar that dance around his vocal. He follows that performance with another Muddy Waters tune, “Louisiana Blues”, that has a powerful vocal in addition to a nice blend fine slide guitar and harp playing. English also includes the obligatory Robert Johnson covers, delivering an intense, rockin’ version of “Ramblin’ On My Mind” that gets a big response from the appreciative audience. His take on “Crossroads” features more strong guitar playing.

English contributes five original compositions that hold up well in comparison to the rest of setlist. “Jesus Was a Bluesman” allows English to mix gospel and folk blues together as he makes a case for Jesus being the greatest bluesman ever. The up-tempo “Southern Fried” gives English a chance to have some fun with the audience shouting out their approval. The biting “Long Island Society Blues” tells the tale of an unfortunate experience English had at a Blues Challenge competition.

Occasionally English tries a bit too hard in his attempts to sing with an “authentic” blues sound. But his guitar playing is stellar throughout the recording and his harmonica provides a nice complement to the guitar without being overdone. The boisterous audience clearly enjoyed the spirited performance from English, who is able to bring life to even the better known songs. Fans of acoustic blues will find plenty to enjoy on this release, which can be purchased at Worth checking out !!!

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

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