Suhler & Monkey Beat
By James “Skyy Dobro” Walker
16 songs; 71:21 minutes; Library Quality
Tired of this long and cold Midwest winter?
Then let’s head to Texas and heat things up – musically, at least.
“Texas Blues” is composed of a number of style variations and first
occurred in the mid 1920s, featuring acoustic guitar work that
mimicked the vocals rather than merely accompanying them. Lyrics
relied less on love, unfaithfulness, and heartbreak than other blues
forms. After World War II, a fully electric style featured
single-string soloing over predominantly horn-driven backing –
“Electric” Texas Blues. T-Bone Walker’s Electric Texas Blues
represented an uptown sound, but its juke-joint, roadhouse roots
became most prominent by the 1970s and 80s, with even more emphasis
placed on the lead guitar work and with artists intensely rocking
the joint in duos and power trios. The style stays current with
performers primarily working in a small combo context sans a horn
Texas native Jim Suhler is best known as the
lead guitarist for George Thorogood and The Destroyers since 1999.
Because of Suhler’s masterful endless-fireworks-approach to slide,
lead, and rhythm guitar, he has often been included in “Top Ten
Guitarists” lists of various publications. When he is not playing
with Thorogood, he tours and records with his own band, Monkey Beat.
Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat have been on the
music scene for over fifteen years, and they have built a fan base
worldwide through constant touring in both the USA and Europe. The
band is well known for its no-holds-barred approach to
blues-inspired Rock and Roll and Roots music.
Tijuana Bible is the fifth and newest CD
by the Dallas guitar hero and his fiery veteran band:
bassist/vocalist Carlton Powell, keyboardist Shawn Phares, and
drummer Jimmy Morgan. Produced by Jim Suhler and Tom Hambridge, the
album guests are Jimmy Hall (vocals on “Po’ Lightnin’”), Elvin
Bishop, Joe Bonamassa (lead guitar on “Deep Water Lullaby”), and
Buddy Leach (saxophones on “Border Rock” and “Years of Tears”).
Tijuana Bible features 16 songs, thirteen Suhler or Suhler/Hambridge
originals and covers of Elvin Bishop’s “Drunken Hearted Boy” (with
Elvin on slide guitar), Rory Gallagher’s “I Could've Had Religion”
(with Cheryl Arena on harmonica), and AC/DC’s “Up To My Neck In
Title wise (and with an example shown on the
front and back CD cover), “The Tijuana Bible” is a name for an
old-time pornographic comic book, typically starring famous
politicians, film stars, or sports heroes. No one's really sure
where they originated, but Tijuana, with its creative approach to
all things entertaining, is certainly a good guess.
The first number is the title track with the
opening guitar instantly defining the Electric Texas Blues sound.
From a devoted study of Texas mythology, Suhler evidently realized
the metaphorical value of a lyrical ode to such an art form. It's
the sort of attitude and approach that defines Suhler’s work: witty,
literate, and cerebral lyrics presented in groove-basted Texas
rocking blues with incendiary slide guitar.
Every track is a snow-melting standout, and
there is plenty of value with over 70 minutes of music and only one
song longer than six minutes. While purchasing this CD, add one
more, Live at Blue Cat Blues, recorded with Alan Haynes and
featuring Suhler’s live signature cover songs: Louisiana Red’s “Too
Poor To Die” plus Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced.”
James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a
noted Blues writer and Blues Blast contributor