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Michael Packer - My Time to Cry


8 tracks - Total time: 25:25

New York City bluesman Michael Packer’s My Time to Cry is the 11th in a series of CDs issued by Iris Music Group (IMG) to preserve Packer’s musical legacy (Worthy of mention in extending this notable discography is Random Chance Records’ 2007 recording of the Michael Packer Blues Band, Bleecker-Bowery.) Whole containing eight tracks of solid music from forty years ago, songs recorded, but never issued, by Atlantic Records during Packer’s Papa Nebo and Free Beer band days, My Time to Cry’s lack of any annotation, musician/instrument or songwriting credits is a regrettable deficiency.

Of the eight tracks, six are blues in that creative vein that characterized much of the music of the late 1960s-1970s, music that borrowed from other genres and tried to extend the musical horizons of each. That’s clearly heard on My Time to Cry, with its incorporation of elements from soul and rock into the contemporary blues of the opening track, the title song, “My Time to Cry,” with its addition of flute to the guitar-driven band sound. Solid interplay among electric and acoustic guitars is an integral part of the musical approach throughout, and Packer’s high-pitched tenor is emotive and versatile, notably singing one syllable as a series of syllables on track 2, “Wicked Feeling” and track 6, “My Woman Tonight.” “Bullfrog Blues,” track 3, is an electric blues band adaptation of a traditional blues that’s reminiscent of the Allman Brothers’ approach to “Statesboro Blues,” and on which the electric bass prominently plays the role of a low-register rhythm guitar, and also features a citified country-style harp on two solos. This same electric adaptation of traditional is also present on “My Woman Tonight, built around an old-timey rag melody. “Love Comes Easier,” track 4, is a slow, ruminative lament, and track 7, “Bad Time Jackson,” is a story song of a man come to free his woman, where the basic guitar essentialism of the band is augmented by blues piano and a fiddle solo.

The tightness of the bands and the excellent instrumentation truly makes the listener yearn for more recording information and musicianship credits, beyond what we can assume are the players forming Packer’s Papa Nebo and Free Beer bands. Even the information that these songs are unreleased Atlantic recordings from forty years ago comes solely from a handwritten note to the publicity letter issued to advertise the release.

This same tightness and listen ability characterizes the two non-blues tracks as well, both of them deserving of brief mention, if for no other reason than to note the versatility and craftsmanship of the music throughout. “She Left This Morning,” track 5, is modern country, replete with steel guitar, that incorporates approaches from the country-pop of Bob Dylan, the Eagles and Arlo Guthrie along with the more traditional country approaches of Nashville and Bakersfield. The ending track, “Can’t Find the Way Outside,” is a philosophical rock number where knowledge of the dangers of the streets joins hands with a plea for love, and a fear of not finding it. These last two songs, joining with the blues of the other six, remind us of just how much felicitous creativity abounded across genres in pop music back then, and in that regard, Michael Packer’s My Time to Cry is a most welcome reminder. And also, a reminder of how much gold can remain entombed for quite some while in the archives of unreleased recordings from days past..

Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish hails from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr. He has written a regular music column for several years. He wrote the liner notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has been a blues and pop music contributor for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy.

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