Cyrus Hayes & Lady Lee - Mr. President
7 songs; 42:20 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Blues, Chicago Blues, Harmonica Blues
Just how bad can this Great Recession get? In a case illustrated in “Mr. President,” this CD’s title track, things have gotten beyond extreme: “The bedbug told that roach, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do / If we don’t make it through these hard times, I’m gonna have to start eatin’ on you!’” Meanwhile, the narrator has “heard the President speak; he said, ‘Everything gonna be all right.’” The narrator adds an aside, “You know he’s lying don’t cha?” Interestingly, this song injecting humor into the hard times and showcasing Cyrus Hayes’ lyrical talents was written during the recession of 1990-91 for President G.H.W. Bush.
The theme’s reapplication to current times was obvious. When asked in an interview with Terrance “Gatorman” Lape posted at ChicagoBluesNews.com why he wrote the song, Cyrus replied, “Well, because we were all dealing with hard times, and it seems like everybody is going through it. Now, today, people getting laid off the job.”
Harmonica genius Cyrus Hayes, along with his wife Lady Lee, have been called, “one of the better kept secrets on the Chicago music scene.” But, according to journalist Lape, reviewing their stage-burning appearance at the 2009 Chicago Blues Festival, the secret is out, “Well they are no longer a secret. The whole blues community knows about them now.”
If this CD gets the radio play and exposure it deserves, the entire Blues world will find out! Of the seven songs, four are originals penned by Hayes. Recorded live, the CD features Cyrus on lead and harmony vocals and harmonica, Lady Lee on vocals, and there’s a competent and hot back up band consisting of Steve Koerber – lead guitar, Mike Boyle – bass and backing vocals, Dan Wile – drums and backing vocals, and Greg “Wolfman” Schleitwiler – keyboards.
The fun starts with track one, “I’m Crazy About You Baby,” right with the first series of trumpet-toned tah-tah-tahs on Hayes’ harmonica. The band quickly falls into a Chicago Blues groove behind the harp. The action has full traction as this dance floor filler has piano solos, guitar solos, some of Hayes’ famous harmonica work, and ends with his trademark falsetto vocals.
Track two, “I Wanna Know Where You Been,” is a ten minute plus mid tempo excursion. During the only song running more than six minutes, the vocals are particularly emotional emanating from the narrator getting in the mood to make love and discovering he was all alone. The length of the song allows plenty of stretching by all players, and it allows Hayes to display all his harmonica techniques from single note skitters to full chord mouth organ to playing with no hands.
“Are You Ready For Love,” track four, takes the listener into Soulful R&B territory. At a slower tempo and more mellow approach, Cyrus croons in his smoothest lover voice over an incredible vocal range. While the song didn’t get me all the way into bed, I did go put my pajamas on.
Track five, “Tell Me Baby,” credited to “Rufus Luck,” is back to some of the deepest Chicago Blues in the set. Koerber’s guitar work is especially strong on this one.
“Teenie Weenie Bit,” credited to Etta James, brings Lady Lee to the microphone for powerful and deep throated lead vocals. Cyrus adds harmony along with band members. The stop-and-go syncopation is perfect on this lusty romp.
The set closes with a cover of Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle.” The band is deftly in the pocket to pitch one. Lady Lee’s vocals clearly are of a quality that would make both Dixon and Koko Taylor proud.
Casual Blues fans and Blues purists alike can rejoice at this release. All the ingredients are there to pull us out of recession or depression, in spirit, at least, if not actual financial success! My only complaint is that it is too short; when something is this good I don’t want it to end.
Cyrus was joined by Lady Lee in 1988, played with Albert King in ’89, and released a record in ‘90 containing “Mr. President.” ‘94 saw the release of “Right Back For More,” a love song painted in Blues. Maintaining their live work, their repertoire includes their original music as well as a diverse collection of Blues and R&B standards done “Cyrus Hayes and Lady Lee Style.”
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Thursdays from 7 - 8 pm and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL
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