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Quintus McCormick – Still Called The Blues

Delmark Records

13 tracks; 60.10 minutes

Quintus McCormick makes a rapid return to the recording scene with his third CD for Delmark in just over three years. His first album “Hey Jodie!” earned a Blues Blast Nomination in 2010 and I had the pleasure of reviewing his second CD “Put It On Me” just over a year ago. This time round Quintus has opted to mix covers with his own material. The seven originals included demonstrate what a prolific writer he is but it is quality and variety that mark out Quintus’ output as he ranges across classic blues, soul, funk and Rn’B in the set. The musicians on this CD are Quintus on guitar and vocals, Lovely “JR” Fuller on bass, Pete Thomas on drums, Roosevelt Purifoy and John Chorney sharing keyboard duties; a horn section of Kenny Anderson (trumpet), Dudley Owens (tenor) and Jerry DiMuzio (baritone) play on two cuts with DiMuzio adding flute and Owens tenor to two further tracks.

The album opens with “I Gotta Go” which is heavy on the funk with lots of wah-wah guitar. Paired with a cover of Bobby Rush’s “What’s Good For The Goose” I felt that Quintus could have looked at the running order more carefully as, for me, the album really started at track 3 “What Am I Gonna Do?”, a classic soul tune with the horns prominent and a lovely guitar solo that echoes George Benson in style. Quintus’ voice is ideally suited to tunes like this one as he gives a sense of vulnerability to the sad tale of love gone bad. “It Won’t Work” is more of a shuffle and Quintus adopts a deeper voice here on a song that again tackles issues in relationships that are going wrong. A nicely plucked solo from Quintus graces the middle section.

Quintus must be a fan of the Johnny Taylors as he covers both JT and Little JT. The track he takes from Little Johnny is “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing”, a classic slow blues that clocks in at almost nine minutes. That affords ample space for Quintus to show us his vocal and guitar chops. The title track “Still Called The Blues” was written by Earl Forest, George Jackson and Robert Miller for Johnny Taylor in his Malaco days. It’s a strong song and Quintus makes it his own with his vocals and anguished guitar solo. George Jackson also wrote “Old Time Rock And Roll”, famously adapted by Bob Seger who failed to seek any credit for his re-writing and therefore never received any royalties! Quintus’ version follows the Seger version, even replicating the piano intro but his voice struggles a little on this one – I think I’ll stick to Seger’s version!

The other covers here are an interesting pairing of BB King and The Beatles. BB’s “Woke Up This Morning” is definitely part of the classic blues repertoire and Quintus delivers an excellent version. The chopped guitar intro is all there and Quintus’ voice suits the song perfectly. Credit is also due to pianist John Chorney for some strong work here. If I had to pick a track from “Abbey Road” that I really don’t care for it would have to be “Oh! Darling”; the Beatles’ attempt to cover doo-wop never impressed me. However, Quintus makes a far better fist of it than the lads from Liverpool. Perhaps it is simply that his voice is better suited to the song than Paul McCartney’s was – he certainly sounds less strained than Paul did and the sax solo suits the song really well.

That leaves four of Quintus’ originals to mention. “That’s My Baby” features flute which is quite a rarity in the blues. It’s a light song that suits the flute element, a song that pays tribute to Quintus’ girl. “Searching For Your Love” opens with some torrid guitar that is definitely more rock than blues but soon evolves into a ballad with synthesized strings in the arrangement and a vocal that reminded me of the late Barry White! “I’m In Love With You Baby” has a full horn arrangement and works particularly well as Quintus takes on the soul singer role and it fits him like a glove. In contrast “Always” is almost a solo piece for Quintus as he also plays the piano on this gentle ballad.

Although this CD has a number of strong performances I found it less impressive than Quintus’ previous CD. Nevertheless it does demonstrate another side of Quintus’ abilities as he takes on other peoples’ songs alongside his original material. With his vocal and guitar ability allied to strong song writing Quintus is a guy to watch on the Chicago scene.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and enjoyed the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in April.

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