Phil Berkowitz - All Night Party
Dirty Cat Records
14 songs; Time 58:44; Suggested
Style: Chicago Blues, West Coast Jump, New Orleans R&B
“My fellow Americans, we must return to simple basics in this country! For example, when investing, do not put all of your eggs in one basket!” General Wetnight, 2009.
As if answering the good General’s call, Phil Berkowitz sings, “‘I Want a Roof Over My Head’ and bread on the table and love in my heart just for you, where we can have peace of mind....” Now, it just doesn’t get more basic than that. And, speaking of “basics,” it feels so good to get back to some basic Blues done really well after reviewing three non-Blues records in a row.
This is harmonica player Phil’s “fourth official CD,” and, with eight original songs, it is a solid winner from start to stop. Berkowitz is able to convey fun and excitement in the songs, and the title, “All Night Party” seems as natural as a Jamaican work-free drug place. Studio recorded, Berkowitz and Danny Caron co-produced the album with Caron co-writing three numbers and adding some guitar. Studio guests include Sean Carney on guitar and Bill Stuve on bass. At the core are a group of Bay Area musicians: Tim Wagar, Bowen Brown, William Beatty, and Marvin Greene. The few horn parts are from Jeff “Irv” Irvin, Robert Dehlinger, and Doug Rowan. Craig Knudsen added some background vocals.
Phil Berkowitz is a San Francisco Bay area based blues harmonica player and vocalist with an energetic musical style. He is a New Jersey native and the fourth child in a family of six. He relocated to California in early 1989 to complete his college degree. It was during this time at Sonoma State University that he began playing the harmonica and fell in love with all forms of blues and jazz influenced music, especially that of Louis Jordan. He decided to front a band of his own and embarked on a journey of mastering every facet of the diatonic and chromatic harmonica.
“All Night Party” is the opening track as well as the CD’s main theme. This title track sounds live and does a great job of immediately bringing the listener through the door to the party. Set at medium tempo, the song’s piano, harmonica, guitar, guests, and vocals are all intoxicatingly intertwined. The party does not end until the last song titled, “The Party’s Over,” but its rollicking piano leaves us in our dancing shoes; it doesn’t let down easy.
“Straight Up” is wonderful straight up Chicago Blues. Starting with the song’s pace, it’s classic in every way from the lyric message challenging a lover to choose to Sean Carney’s mid song guitar solo to Phil’s scolding harmonica.
My favorite song is an instrumental titled “Tonka T.” Berkowitz’s chromatic harmonica eloquently explains why it is also called a “mouth organ.” Phil claims the song was inspired by a favorite dog, so imagine a perky, playful pooch as the song bounces along.
Other standouts: “Midnight Rooster” with its slowly wrought message of timeless values, “Fine Little Honey Dripper” featuring inspired string work by Marvin Greene, and “Beach Bar Boogie” inspired by a 2007 trip to St. John and infused with an upbeat New Orleans style.
Berkowitz claims the cover songs gave him opportunity to pay tribute to idols: Jimmy T-99 Nelson, Ray Charles, Billy Boy Arnold, Louis Jordan, and Earl King.
Tired of Rock being passed off as Blues? Then get back to the basics with Phil Berkowitz. Not only is his music authentic, it is a party!
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 To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE