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Quintus McCormick Blues Band – Put It On Me!

Delmark Records

www.myspace.com/quintusmccormickband

14 tracks; 64.25 minutes

Quintus McCormick has been fronting his own band on the very competitive Chicago blues scene for a number of years and made a big impression with the 2009 release of his first CD “Hey Jodie”, the title song of which was nominated for a Blues Blast Award last year. The second album is now here and Quintus and his band seem to have avoided the pitfalls of the notoriously ‘difficult’ sophomore release with a superb CD which offers over an hour of varied and original music. Quintus wrote all the material this time round and the recording was completed in just two days in Riverside studios, Chicago. The band consists of Quintus on guitar and vocals, John Chorney, keys, Vic Jackson, bass and Jeremiah Thomas, drums. The four piece Chicago Horns (Kenny Anderson, trumpet, Hank Ford, tenor, Jerry DiMuzio, baritone, Steve Berry, trombone) add substantially to 5 tracks and Billy Branch plays his trademark harp on three tracks.

What impressed me in particular was Quintus’ ability to tailor his voice to the song. As a stark example opening cut “You Just Using Me” is a classic Chicago shuffle, barrelling along at pace with strong piano and harp. Here Quintus sings in shortened phrases and mid-range voice. Second cut “Talk Baby” is far more of a soul track, the rhythm propelled by Quintus’ plucked guitar and percolating keyboards, the whole taken up a notch by the strong horn arrangement. Here Quintus’ vocal is in a higher register, giving that ‘pleading’ tone that soul is all about.

It is not just the voice that Quintus flexes on this CD. Third track “How Quick We Forget” is a slow, late night soul blues (more great horn arrangements). Quintus’ voice gets down low here but his guitar shows a different side. On the first two tracks his style was single note, plucked playing. Here he adds some distortion to offer a soaring solo that matches the nature of the song perfectly. “Same Old Feeling” is another soul blues, horn supported song, with warm vocals and a little touch of George Benson style guitar on the outro.

The horns take a break on the next two tracks. “I Got It Babe” is one of those ‘bragging’ songs that tells all listening girls that Quintus is really all they need: “Make you holler and scream, make you feel like you’re sweet sixteen”. “The Blues Has Been Good To Me” brings Billy Branch’s harp back on a slow, rolling blues. The piano playing on this one is great too! “Loveland” has the horns again on an uptempo stomper and we are again in the soul dimension here; a tune that makes you move, even when seated in front of the laptop! Quintus just plays rhythm on this one, leaving the horns to testify throughout and a short electric piano solo towards the end.

“Don’t Know What To Do” is a song about ‘the morning after’ a party night out. Quintus has spent all his money, is stuck between two lovers and is a bit lost…best to get it all out of your system with some tough guitar and harp playing! “Change” provides a complete contrast in sound with Quintus’ guitar to the fore from the very start on a slower paced blues. It’s a song that could well have had a horn arrangement on it, but the band do an excellent job, the piano and organ ably supporting Quintus’ striking guitar playing and soulful vocal.
Title song “Put It On Me!” reminds me of Muddy’s “I’m Ready”. The rhythm section does a great job on this one (and throughout) with sharp drumming keeping all the players on their game. Quintus conjures up a very strong guitar break and the piano features throughout. “Sadie” is also upbeat, a song about a girl that simply won’t leave Quintus alone – poor chap! She inspires some very nice guitar plucking too!

“Say Lover” marks the final appearance of the Chicago Horns, and what a send-off! Quintus is definitely back in soul crooner mode here and the horns really soar on a classic soul cut: “Maybe we’ll meet some other time, who knows, a few years it might be fine. Love so sweet when we were together.” Electric piano is the solo featured instrument, but it is the horns that are the stars here. “Lady Blue” starts with an extended instrumental section before the vocal comes in. Some relaxed playing from the entire band on this gentle blues ballad. The final cut is “Hallelujah” which, as the title suggests, closes the CD with a nod in the direction of Quintus’ former gospel career.
I was very impressed with this CD. Quintus is clearly a triple threat with his versatile singing and playing and his song writing ability. I would expect this CD to add to the buzz that Quintus created with his first CD and is clearly an early contender for the Blues Blast nominations for 2012.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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