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Charlie Wood & the New Memphis Underground

Daddy-O Records
Run Time: 54:03

I went to Memphis’ International Festival in 2003 and spent my evenings walking up and down Beale Street after the festival hours had shut down. I had always heard that the best music sometimes takes place after the big shows. Unfortunately, to my surprise and disappointment, not a bright light of Memphis soul or Blues could be found in this Mecca of Blues that was Beale Street. The Blues and soul that once was Memphis’ Beale Street has been replaced by the ruckus and noise of today’s hip hop and hard rock/post-punk along with typical classic rock bar bands.

Upon my return to my home in Illinois two artists came across my desk that still live and record amongst the invasion of the modern sounds. There names were a journeyman harmonica player named Billy Gibson and a virtuoso vocalist and keyboard player named Charlie Wood. I did my reading up on these two and came to find out that “red-headed Charlie” as he’s sometime affectionately called had toured the world with Albert King in 1990 up until King's passing. Wood impressed me and I’ve tried to keep up with him ever since.

Last year, putting together a crack band of talent from around the Memphis area, including musical partner/label mate Billy Gibson, Wood pounded out 4 covers and ten originals that are presented here. Wood’s musical career began in being tutored in jazz in high school and then eventually he found his way into Memphis soul music. This eponymous release gives the listener a blend of jazz, Memphis Soul, gospel, and Blues much in the likes of another great keyboard player Ray Charles. Wood’s appeal is that he gives us Memphis Soul Stew with a jazz sensibility and vocal nuance. Along with his fine musicianship (as well as the band), Wood remains ever conscious of the continued condition of the world around him (listen to “You Really Don’t Wanna Know”) without proselytizing the listener to his own view but still remain a staunch challenger with biting lyrics and by also being somewhat of a humorist with the ode to the American, over-caffeinated white collar worker called “Coffee Is For Me.”

Wood’s covers on the disc aren’t a simple reinvention of the wheel of his influences. He promptly adds in his jazz credentials while giving room to folks like Gibson and guitarist Joe Restivo to conjure their own unique styles as well without it all sounding like a jumbled coagulated jam session.

I think what I like about Wood most of all is his broad vision and spectrum. He just doesn’t want to appeal to one niche market; he wants to appeal to everyone with their ears to the ground for good quality music. He does, with both his smoky whiskey laced vocal and incredible dexterity on the keys have a seminal crossover appeal that most artists in Blues or neo-Memphis Soul would not have. To say that American music on Beale and in Memphis is gone would not be the truth, Charlie Wood and his cast are still around and kicking and they are kicking quite loudly.

Visit Charlie Wood on the web at  or at his Myspace:  This CD is available at CDBaby and ITunes.

Ben Cox is a Blues Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Journalist.

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