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RJ Mischo – Make It Good

Delta Groove Music

13 tracks; 44.19 minutes

Delta Groove issues a lot of CDs by harp players – maybe that’s because label boss Randy Chortkoff plays harp himself, or maybe it’s because there’s a lot of talented players out there. Either way, this CD brings RJ Mischo into a major label spotlight. It’s not his first release by any means as he has produced plenty of music for smaller labels and issued some discs independently. Inspired by watching Anson Funderburgh And The Rockets at the King Biscuit Festival, RJ recorded this all original CD in Austin, Texas, with an all-star cast of Texans including Johnny Moeller and Nick Curran on guitar, Ronnie James Weber on bass (all current or former Fabulous Thunderbirds), Wes Starr (Anson Funderburgh And The Rockets) on drums and Nick Connolly (Delbert McClinton) on keys. Old friends Richard Medek (drums) and Jeremy Johnson (guitar) provide the accompaniment on a couple of tracks recorded back in RJ’s home state of Minnesota.

The CD opens in fine style with “Trouble Belt” an uptempo rocker with a definite T Birds feel. RJ has a strong voice that suits the material: the piano is prominent, along with rocking guitars and a bouncy rhythm, but RJ is keeping his harp in reserve here, perhaps awaiting the second track “The Frozen Pickle” which is a bouncy instrumental feature for his harp playing. Nick Connolly takes a solo on organ that adds a slightly jazzy feel to the piece. Title track “Make It Good” is the first piece from the Minnesota sessions but with drums present the feel is not very different to the Texas recordings. The other Minnesota piece “Up To The Brim” is just RJ and Jeremy Johnson who plays bass drum and high hat with his feet on this duo instrumental.

“Papa’s S.T. Special” is another instrumental, a real hoedown of a tune which gives RJ the opportunity to demonstrate some whooping and hollering alongside his harp playing! “Minnesota Woman” is a more conventional blues tune with a lyric which picks up a number of blues standard topics: long distance phone calls, getting back home to see his baby, etc. Fine solos on guitar and piano decorate the number as well as the observation that “she comes from Minnesota, but that girl’s blood never runs cold”. “Arambula” is another harp feature, this time with a latin feel and appears in two parts for no reason that I could detect!

RJ’s harp starts “Not Your Good Man” in a really down home style and some relaxed slide playing adds to the back porch feel of this number which portrays RJ as the occasional ‘bad boy’ lover who stays on his girl’s mind when she is with her ‘good man’. “The Biscuit Is Back” pays tribute to the festival that gave RJ the idea for this CD; of course, it never went away but everyone in the blues world welcomed the return of the illustrious name and this song celebrates that. “Elevator Juice” is a rocker with Nick Curran on drums which I liked a lot though I have no idea what the title could mean!

RJ Mischo has good tone and variety and I liked the combination with the Texan players on this CD. Although there is nothing particularly original here I would expect that a major label release will bring RJ’s music to a far wider audience.

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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