Fatback Deluxe - Rat Now
Recorded in the Lions Den, Tucker, GA
12 tracks; 44 minutes 17 seconds; Suggested
Styles: Chicago-Texas-Swing Blues, and West Coast Jump with guitar, bass, drums and harp
They say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, but when did I start listening to what they say? Hey, I expected (or should I say suspected) something good. The ‘cover’ in this case is the 1930s-40s period picture of a country watering hole and bbq joint on the Fatback Deluxe Rat Now CD. You see a country watering hole like this and know there’s gotta be something good inside, so you go in. And that’s exactly what happens when this vintage photo cover begs you to open up the CD pack, take out the CD and plug it in. The joint was rockin!
The players: Ira Malkin on vocals and harp, Chris Kramer on electric guitar, Ben Gettys on Upright Bass, Pete Maier on Drums and additional musician Matt Wauchope on piano and organ. There are 5 originals all written by guitarist Chris Kramer and 8 covers including those by Magic Sam, Buddy Guy, BBKing, Dave Bartholomew & Fats Domino and Johnny Guitar Watson.
I also noted the recording was dedicated to the memory of the late great Sean Costello. After checking out Fatback Deluxe’s Myspace page, I understood why. There were photos of Sean Costello sitting in with them at Northside Tavern in Atlanta. From what I could see in the photos, this must have been one hot jam that night.
Ira has an incredibly soulful voice and delivery. When you can listen to a CD, close your eyes and feel like the singer is in the same blues room as you’re in, singing directly to you, now that’s real. His voice is seasoned, rich and strong and I bet he can really cut lose like a Little Richard or James Brown whenever he takes a hankering to do so. And his harp playing is true blues--musically and emotionally moving.
And the muti-talent doesn’t stop there. Chris Kramer provides the perfect match of talent on electric guitar, strategically laying down each note with just the right amount of gusto, tempo and beat whether they’re playing the early tunes of a Magic Sam or boogie woogie blues. With his song writing talent, guitar licks and Ira’s voice and harp talent, these two are a great match up. And of course, there’s got to be a nice tight pocket to showcase front talent; and there is exactly that with Ben Gettys and Pete Maier on bass and drums.
The Track 1 version of Sam Maghett’s (“Magic Sam”) “You Belong To Me” dishes up some great guitar licks, organ, and soulful early rock R&B. Chris Kramer’s original “Mercy” falls right in place on Track 2 with an up tempo swinging beat that most anyone would want to get up and dance to. “Sitting on the Boat Dock” is the catchy Sonny Thompson song that Ira sings with conviction. Chris lends his own with a great guitar solo. Magic Sam’s back with Track 4’s “She Belongs To Me” – more of the great stylings of both Ira and Chris from vocals, to guitar to harp solos.
Track 5 is “Country Boy (Running Wild)”, a Dave Bartholomew and Antoine “Fats” Domino early boogie woogie beat reminiscent of the ‘50’s era west coast beach rock sounds.
“The Sun Shines Down” is Track 6, another Chris Kramer original sung from the heart by Ira; again the theme’s pretty much the same through out on all the tracks—great vocals and harp by Ira, followed by great guitar solos by Chris all within a cohesive veteran traditional blues music pocket. Track 7 “Jump With You” is a Riley “B.B.King” tune that had everyone who was in the room while I was playing Rat Now ‘a foot tappin and slappin’. And following “BB” on Track 8 is another great song, a Buddy Guy original, “She Suits Me To A Tee”. The title track “Rat Now” is Track 9, a Johnny Guitar Watson original. Ira paints a vocal portrait of a man’s painful lament as he’s blues jonesing for his woman. Next is Johnny’s “Looking Back”—performed with a fun early beach boys rocking groove. The final three tracks are “Darkness Falls”, “Steel Blade Fan”—a Chris Kramer original—and Track 13 “Gawjook Boogie”, a fast jumping blues boogie with more great Ira harp and vocals.
Had I randomly stumbled on this act one night in a blues club, not knowing who they were, I would think it’s my lucky night. I would stick around until last call and lights on. Thank goodness now we don’t have to hope for random ‘good band’ luck to strike—support this group and take in one of their shows as I plan to do. Minimally, go on-line and buy their CD. It’ll make a great blues addition to your collection. All I know is that it’s a good thing these guys are just a couple hours drive away from my South Carolina town…I may be laying down some tracks to Atlanta real soon.
Belinda Foster is a Columnist and Contributing Writer for Greenville SC Magazine “Industry Mag” and former manager of Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’Blues. She currently books blues-rock-jam musicians and is a devoted promoter and supporter of live blues root music and history, making frequent trips to “The Crossroads” and Clarksdale Mississippi, birthplace of the blues. Her column “The Upstate Blues Report can be found on line at www.industrymag.net