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The Mannish Boys - Lowdown Feelin’

Delta Groove Music

17 songs; 72:52 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Chicago Blues ensemble

“Pro - GRAMS! Get your programs! You can’t tell the players without a program!” This well worn barkers phrase heard at ball games could also apply to the fourth release by California’s The Mannish Boys. With no less than 20 musicians on board, a reader’s guide is a must. The liner notes suffice nicely at pegging the “Who’s Who” for each of the 17 songs. By the way, the “20” number does not include famed producer and engineer David Z plus co-producer Jeff Scott Fleenor (with label owner Randy Chortkoff) and the assistance of analog studio owner Chuck Kavooras, at Slideaway Music Studio.

According to Chortkoff, the idea for this album, which is prime for a Blues Music Award nomination, was to search for great blues songs “that almost no one has ever heard before – that no one ever plays.” Their search went nationwide, from coast to coast, from Chicago to Texas, and Florida, too.

The result is wonderful, pure blues album with no Rock! 30 songs were recorded, four of which were originals (Chortkoff provided two and a pair by Little Sammy Davis), and an almost unheard of 17 made the final cut. At almost 73 minutes in length, there are no quibbles about economic value.

Bobby Jones sings seven tunes, including my favorite track, Chortkoff’s original “Searchin' Blues,” a Robert Johnson “Walkin’ Blues” based song, with Goldwasser on slide guitar. Original member Finis Tasby sings lead on the title track, Albert Collins' "If The Washing Don't Get You, The Rinsing Will" and "Something's Wrong." Johnny Dyer handles Willie Dixon’s classic "The Same Thing" and, on "Good Times" by his late friend Shakey Jake, adds harmonica.

Kid Ramos, Kirk "Eli" Fletcher, and Frank "Paris Slim" Goldwasser are the main guitarists, and Junior Watson and Fred Scribner do some six string guesting. Check Junior’s killer solo on “Dead Letter Blues.” Richard Innes is back on drums, James Weber & Tom Leavey handle bass, and Chortkoff adds harmonica. Among special guests are Lynwood Slim, Al Blake, Fred Kaplan, Scott Steen, David Woodford, Cynthia Manley, and Jessica Williams.

Analogous to Olympic USA basketball “dream teams,” The Mannish Boys line up features many all stars. But, not every dream team won the gold (remember Greece in 2004). This album is so good, it begs only esoteric wonderings. What would it sound like if the members were a real band, together since high school, sharing decrepit digs on an Elm Street somewhere, passionate about a project and a sometimes overwhelming collective identity, and integrated down to the cellular level?

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL

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