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Eddie Shaw and the 757 Allstars - Still Riding High

Stringtown Records

12 songs; 48:30 minutes

Styles: Traditional Electric Chicago Blues

When stellar lead musicians rise, so do those who join them onstage. Pete Townshend and Michael Jackson may have been the suns in their bands’ universe, for example, but who’d ever forget Keith Moon and his flying drumsticks or Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo in the middle of “Beat It”? In the blues world, Eddie Shaw is a saxophone star orbiting the late, great Howlin’ Wolf. Originally from Bolivar County, Mississippi, Shaw rose to become one of the most noted names in Chicago blues. Teaming up with the 757 Allstars, a grassroots group of fourteen artists aiming to revive the blues scene in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, Shaw wants to show the world he’s “Still Riding High” at 75 years old! His latest album includes eleven original songs and one bonus track, Fernando Jones’ “I Need a Pretty Woman.” Three of them specifically showcase these show-people’s skills:

Track 01: “Sack Full of Blues”--This effervescent instrumental will lift listeners’ spirits as it begins the CD. Bill Kelly’s bouncy bass, perfected by his fifty years of playing it, will help anyone dancing along to make sure their fast feet don’t miss a beat. Hugh “Chuck” Williams, a Vietnam veteran and saxophone player for Albert Collins, is also featured here. “Sack Full of Blues” and the eleventh track, “Rock This House,” are like bookends: their themes match, and they reinforce one another’s party vibe!

Track 04--“Paris in the Fall”-- France’s sophisticated capital is not usually associated with the blues, but that doesn’t stop vocalist Bruce Gray from loving it “most of all” when autumn rolls around. He esteems it above “New Orleans, good gumbo soup and cabbage greens!” This reviewer would like to coin a new term, “saxduction,” for what Shaw does here with the sultry sounds of his favorite brass horn. However, Thomas Fisher’s tinkling piano notes are what call colored leaves cascading through the air to mind!

Track 07: “Blues Dues”-- Jackie Scott, executive producer of this album and prominent chanteuse in her own right, provides vocals on this masterful slow-blues ballad. She pays remarkable attention to her phrasing--which musical notes she holds, and for how long. Listening closely, lyrics lovers will rediscover that not every word in a song deserves equal emphasis. The effect is chilling: one of a soul in torment, but trying to make the best of perdition. Paying “Blues Dues” along with Scott are Thomas Fisher on piano, Mark Hopkins on guitar along with Rich Ridolfino.

In the CD liner notes, Jackie comments: “Howlin’ Wolf asked Eddie to continue the tradition of blues. It’s been 60 years of blues for Eddie Shaw, and he’s still carrying the torch!”

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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