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David Vest – Rock A While

Criminal Records 2010

15 tracks, 52.46 minutes.

David Vest is an experienced piano player who has been playing since the late 1950’s and is currently based in the Pacific North West. In his time he has played with the likes of Big Joe Turner, Lavelle White and Jimmy T99 Nelson and was co-leader of the late harmonica player Paul Delay’s last band. David has also played a lot of jazz, and some country, in his time so he certainly has a lot of experience which shows on this varied release. On this CD there are four covers and the remainder of the material is made up of David’s own compositions. There are some excursions into jazz, but the core of the material is the blues and there is certainly something for most of us blues fans here to get our interest. The core band is David on piano, Peter Dammann on guitar and Jeff Minnick on drums, bass duties being shared by Albert Reda, Dave Kahl, Alan Hager and Don Campbell, all veterans of the NW scene. On three live tracks there is a horn section led by Jim King and there is a guest appearance by drummer Jimi Bott on one track.

The CD opens with the title track which is a piano-led rocker taking us into Jerry Lee territory. The lyrics are somewhat autobiographical as Dave sings of being born in Alabama and the life of the itinerant piano player. The second track “Blind Mule” is a spoken word story which appears to have been handed down from within the Vest family, a strange tale of a mule that died with its jaws clamped round a guy’s knee! The story is accompanied by laid back piano, bass and drums in a jazzy blues style.

Next up is a short (1.28) solo piano piece of pure jazz entitled “Monklite In Vermouth” (geddit?), but blues order is restored with “Magic City Shuffle”, an instrumental with excellent piano and sympathetic accompaniment. “What’s On Your Mind” is a vocal number that really moves along at pace, with boogie piano underpinning a song in which David seems to have a bevy of women by his side: “I come from Alabama with a blonde across my knee; I crossed the Mississippi, Lord I was feeling fine and that tattooed gal behind me said ‘Daddy what’s on your mind’?”

“Running Partner” is another change of pace, the piano leading quite a soulful tune, the chorus explaining the sentiment of the title: “My running partner, she won’t run out on me, there’s something about that woman, I just can’t let her be”. There are nice solos from both piano and guitar. “Let’s go too far” is another funny song about meeting a girl in a bar wearing a T-shirt with the title of the song on it. This one has something of a 60s pop tune about it, especially in the way the guitar chords play behind the vocal.

“Bad Little Boogie” does pretty well what the title suggests, starting with solo piano before the band joins in on a real toe-tapper. “Little Big Eyes” is a slower, jazzier instrumental before the first cover, John Lee Hooker’s “Whisky And Women”, with Jimi Bott laying down a good boogie beat.

I assume that the live tracks are the next three which all feature the horn section. “Natural Born Lover/Every Night About This Time” have the New Orleans feel that songs by Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino should have, the sax solo enhancing the medley before a strong guitar solo which, sadly, is faded out. Next up is another duo of songs “I Got A Baby/Rocky Road Blues”, written by Charles Matthews and Bill Monroe respectively. Here the horns are more used to punch out the riffs and the piano features strongly. Willie Dixon’s “It Don’t Make Sense (You Can’t Make Peace)” completes the trilogy of live cuts and makes a good contrast with the other two, with Peter Dammann’s guitar and David’s piano evoking the spirit of Chess. Again, the track is faded, unfortunately just as David says “You don’t mind if I express myself?”!

Nevertheless the quote works well as the next tune is a solo piano piece entitled “Both Hands Blue”, another boogie piece. Finally there is a hidden instrumental track (why do they do that?) entitled “Blind Mule Bluff” which is a relaxed affair with a ‘late night in the bar’ feel to it. Piano-led, with jazzy guitar chording, this is a nice finish to the album.

I liked this album which provides good variety across styles of blues and jazz. David Vest is clearly an excellent pianist with an experienced band in support; recommended to those who enjoy such variety in their diet of blues.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He was just back in the USA for the January 2011 Blues Cruise!

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