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Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers - Piece of Work

Azuretone Records

16 songs; 62 minutes

Styles: Blues Rock, Modern Electric Blues, Rock and Roll

Is the blues an art or a craft? Countless bands have tried to solve this riddle as they perform. Is playing the blues an innate talent, born of natural “mojo”? On the other hand, does it consist of a set of skills that can be learned and perfected by nearly anyone? Ohio’s Ray Fuller, in his newest “Piece of Work,” proves the answer is a bit of both. He’s no ordinary singer, songwriter and guitarist--not everyone gets to share the stage with Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and receive high praise from them. He’s also been featured in periodicals from “Living Blues” magazine to Ohio’s “Columbus Dispatch.” Knowing his credentials, one might wonder why he’s not a household name in blues music. In time, he just may be, as evidenced by the following original songs (four out of twelve on the album, with four covers):

Track 1: “Big City Woman” – the opener sets the mood and style of the CD nicely with a mid-tempo number featuring some top-string twang from Fuller and great harmonica work from Mike Gilliland, who sings vocals on two of the album’s cuts.

Track 11: “Quittin’ Time”--Sometimes, the best blues songs are honest yet understated, telling it like it is minus screaming guitar and crashing drums. Such is the case with this candid confession about leaving “a loveless marriage that’s long gone bad: that close connection that we never had.” Fuller’s vocals and lead, lap-steel guitar, rolling like the currents of a placid river, are regretful but not remorseful. His resignation is that of someone worn out, but not spent; defeated, but not broken. It’s simply “Quittin’ Time”.

Track 13: “Baby You’re a Habit”--Speaking of quitting (or not), Ray does a 180-degree turn in tempo and style from the previously mentioned track. “Baby You’re a Habit” is a full-blast rock and roller, featuring Keith Blair pounding 88 ivory keys and Mark Ward having a field day on the drums. Manny Manuel keeps pace on bass as Ray counts the various vices he’s given up. Gambling, smoking and drinking are permanently out of his life, but not his potent paramour: “Loving you is killing me!” Fuller exclaims.

Track 15: “Tupelo Willie”--Hauntingly atmospheric, this biographical ballad commemorates the life of Mississippi born, Ohio musician Willie “Pooch” Johnson (1937-2010). Working his way up from “the killing floor” to sharing the stage with Magic Sam and Luther Allison, Willie found a better life through “digging that Chicago sound” in town clubs after a long and dirty day of work. Listeners can definitely tell that even if they’ve never heard of “Tupelo Willie,” he was a bluesman of note! Blair’s piano is magical.

These four numbers might be considered strokes of genius by blues fans. If more of the selections on Ray Fuller’s latest release would have resembled them, instead of being “workmanlike” entries (a cover of “Boom Boom,” the bland title track, and “Rock and Roll Cowboy”), “Piece of Work” would have been a better piece of art.

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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