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Common Ground Blues – Too Much Talkin’

Self release CD

8 tracks – 37 minutes

Phoenix is the USA’s biggest state capital but geography and demography deny it as big a blues presence as say Austin in Texas or Baton Rouge in Louisiana. You’re more likely to find concerts under ‘Rock’ or, in particular, ‘Country’ in the AZ Weekly listings. But Blues is a hardy perennial and thrives in a cluster of downtown bars and clubs such as CK’s, The Rhythm Room, Skipper’s Lounge and Pat Murphy’s. It’s here that Common Ground Blues ply their bluesy trade. And their self-released CD – Too Much Talkin- takes you straight to that scene without the inconvenience of flying into Sky Harbour International Airport.

CG Blues are a five-piece outfit based around the vocals of Glen Farkash and the guitar of Brian Marsherella. They also provide the only self-penned song on the CD -its title-track. Making up the quintet are Earl Abbot (keys), Timothy Kinsey (bass) and Guy Mazzarella (drums).

The band, individually and collectively, have been around long enough to have seen waves of blues come and go and to absorb material and licks from each. They centre, though, on the classic blues of the 50s and 60s when giants like Bobby Bland and Buddy Guy were in their pomp. The stand-out track, for me, is "I Smell Trouble" (Track 5) which was, coincidentally, recorded by both those fine artists as well as Ike and Tina Turner and, memorably, by Johnnie Taylor. Glen sings the mid-paced mournful classic with an anguished growl with Brian excelling on an extended guitar solo and tasteful Otis Spann-like piano from Earl sitting nicely in the mix.

Earl’s jazz influences at to the fore when he switches to organ for Art Blakely’s instrumental "Moaning" (Track 6) which first saw light-of-day on the very first Blue Horizon LP in 1957. This has a real ‘Wade in the Water’ feel to it and clearly shows the instrumental prowess that CG Blues possesses. Earl’s B3 sound complements Brian’s clean Strat-tones beautifully with Timothy and Guy providing irresistible bedrock for their melodies. This track emphasizes that the combo value musicality over bluster –the guitar sound eschews distortion and the drums are miked to emphasize snare rather than bass. Full credit should go to engineer Mike Bolenbach.

With the exception of B. B. King surely Taj Mahal is our greatest living bluesman and is without equal amongst those emerging in the second half of the twentieth century. The band pays tribute to him with his 1993 classic "Strut" (Track 3). For my money this is Glen’s best vocal performance on this release. His delivery is looser and understated and brilliantly punctuated by Earl’s keys.

There are hints within the CD of a ‘good-time-was-had-by-all’ band in their live setting; not always easy to replicate in the studio. What does it take, then, for an extremely proficient, experienced outfit like this to break through to the next level? Oodles of good luck helps, obviously, but beyond that choice of material makes all the difference. If you’ve ever played "Blues Festival Bingo" (setting off to fringe venues seeking to be the quickest to tick-off performances of "Everyday, I Have the Blues", "Going to Chicago", "Stormy Monday" and "Mustang Sally") you’ll be alarmed to find that three of those numbers appear in whole or in part here. The title-track, their own, "You Talk Too Much" (Track 8) is a good performance which stands up well amongst the ‘standards’ included and ought to encourage them towards including more Phoenix-penned material on their next visit to Full Well Studios.

Reviewer Michael Ford is a retired school principal living in the North of England. He is a heavily involved volunteer in the organization of Bronte Blues Club ( and writes for and performs in the house-band there. He has played in bands over the years opening for such artistes as Clarence Carter, Howard Tate, Dorothy Moore, Sherman Robertson, Doug MacLeod, Mojo Buford and Larry Garner.

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