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Cool Disposition - Jumping In the Mudd

Giddyap Records

Run Time: 66:58

How is it that a band can sound totally different than what you expect? It happens all the time to me. I read the title of this one and was expecting a very honest homage to the great Muddy Waters. Instead, what you get is very little of Muddy and a whole lot of big band, Left Coast blues swing. This Minnesota five-piece jump, jives, and wails like they’ve been hopping up and down California’s coast with George “Harmonica” Smith and William Clarke for decades. Instead, you’ve got a bunch of seasoned Upper Midwest blues veterans who count Mojo Buford as a mentor.

The band kicks into high gear on the opening cut “What Comes Around” with full tilt big band blues jump. Guitarist Dan Schwalbe compliments the baritone bravado of vocalist Mickey Bauer’s deliver y here with a series of licks a la early era B.B. King. Think of those Crown and King sides that the King of the Blues cut and you’ll see where this one comes from. The swing doesn’t stop there. The rhumba-beat “Mixed Messages” and the call and response of “She’s My Girl” are all about that great Forties era big band swing. The band is air tight and Bauer’s blues shouter mentality along with clever lyrics (which are his own) is as good as any other band falling into this type of subgenre. Sue Orfield’s horn arrangements add some great punch behind Schwalbe’s well-phrased guitar work and Harold Tremblay’s less-is-more approach to the harmonica. Tremblay definitely succeeds when he’s playing more of a rhythm role on the album, adding brass section-like layering underneath all that swing.

The band does deviate from this sound into some other influences. The Jerry Lee Lewis meets zoot suit swagger on “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” shows how good of a vocal interpreter Bauer is. The beat is slightly slowed down to Cool Disposition’s more laid-back pace, which suits them to a tee. I don’t think the song would’ve worked had they played it in Jerry Lee’s frantic paces. Bruce McCabe on piano is a fine guest and displays his solid ivory work on the boogie woogie of “Dog Walker Blues.” He keeps the left hand right in the pocket while flowing into a solid top-end solo on this one. It reminded me a lot of the work of boogie-woogie legend Roosevelt Sykes. This band isn’t afraid to step down into the swamp either. “Time Keeps Ticking” sounds eerily borrowed from Slim Harpo’s “Scratch My Back” in places, tremolo-bound guitar and acoustic harp and all. The more R&B based “Every Hour Everyday” also has a sizable Excello Records feel to it as well.

There are some home runs and some misses here, and to some fans these songs might even run together a bit. The album though is a solid pallet of what these artists intend to paint with their live shows and their image. They are strongly and strictly in the traditional veins – just check out “Minimum Wage” and you’ll hear some scathing reactions to the guys who loathe the “Mustang Sally” crowd. This album is rock solid and is completely a ton of fun from start to finish. Cool Disposition is a good reminder that you sometimes can find good surprises in strange places.

Reviewed by Ben "the Harpman" Cox. Visit his website Juke Joint Soul

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