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Johnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys - Luke’s Dream

Rip Cat Records

13 tracks

Johnny Mastro is a harp master who is rooted in the Paul Butterfield school of harmonica playing. He has gigged for over 30 years and brings a wealth of experience to the table. His harp and vocals are throwbacks to the blues of his forefathers yet he sounds fresh and clean. The CD has 13 tracks with two covers and the rest are originals. Mastro has crafted some fine songs and he and his band really deliver the goods.

The CD opens with the track related to the album title. Mastro relates his dream about the late great West Coast bluesman Robert Lucas in the tune “Luke’s Stomp.” He and his guitar player Smokehouse Brown play a modern country sound with Brown on acoustic guitar. Smokehouse picks out the intro, Mastro enters on harp and then tells his story vocally and on his harp. Brown and Mastro do a couple of mean instrumental duets, too. It’s a great start and peaked my interest for some more.

Mastro moves to a deeply grungy, more modern sound on the second track, “Thunder Roll,” a stark contact to the opener. The big distorted electric guitar and harp wail; Mastro gets into it with a stratospheric solo harp as the “thunder” reaches a peak and subsides at the close. “Spider“ is the only track where Mastro does not blast us into another galaxy. They return to acoustic guitar and Mastro gives a sublime vocal and harp performance.

The CD closes with “My Rocket” and “Temperature.” Mastro makes the harp squeak and moan as he rocks out old school on “My Rocket” and then on “Temperature” the heat gets turned up even more as guest guitarist Peter Atanasoff and he go somewhere off the playing in this Hendrix-esque montage of grinding sounds, perhaps a bit long at 7;44, but they want to make some sort of statement and Atanasoff gets to show what he can do here. The lyrics are borrowed from Little Walter, but this is no Little Walter song; it definitely a modern mix of psychedelic and blues music.

Mastro pays some tribute to blues greats Champion Jack Dupree and Little Walter on “Junker’s Blues” and “Roller Coaster,” two less covered but still excellent songs that allow him and his band to showcase their skills. “Junker’s” builds on Mastro’s harp into a huge closing solo by Brown. “Coaster” is a wonderful vehicle for Mastro to give us a 1:49 schooling in harp playing.

I really can’t complain about any of the other tracks. Mastro has penned some good stuff here and he and the band are together. Mike Hightower on bass and Jim Goodall in drums support the effort well. Atanasoff appears on a few other tracks as does another great West Coast guitar slinger, Kirk Fletcher. Kirk adds some nice touches with great sound on “Knee High” and “Tonight We Ride,” a cool mix of traditional blues riffs and some new age blues sounds. Also on the CD are Scott Abeyta on guitar for a track, Max Bangwell on drums and percussion for a few and Lisa Cee on one other track providing percussion.

This is not blues for the faint of heart. This is massive, big, distorted, grungy, modern sounding stuff. Mastro builds on tradition and then steps up his game. I liked this CD a lot. This former upstate New Yorker has become quite the West Coast bluesman. This is his tenth record and you won’t be disappointed if you want to hear something new and really interesting, but remember to be ready for the full assault on your ears by Mastro and his band!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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