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Studebaker John - Old School Rockin'

Delmark Records

14 tracks

WOW! I l have been a fan of Studebaker John's for many years. When he was signed by Delmark and released his "Maxwell Street Kings" album I was impressed by the somewhat minimalistic but totally authentic music he produced on that great CD. I reviewed it for our Blues Society and was happy to see Studebaker at the top of his game. When I got this CD and popped it in to the opening strains of "Rockin' That Boogie" and I knew I was in for something far more intense than his first Delmark release. Big, bold sounds, a driving groove, hot guitar licks, and John's always intriguing vocals sold me after a few bars, and I still had 13 tracks to go!

Perhaps one would label Studebaker John Grimaldi a throwback. He turns 60 later this year, having grown up in the tumultuous era of the 1960's in an Italian American neighborhood in Chicago. The walls between musical types were beginning to break down when he was a teenager learning to play guitar. He had already mastered the harp and drums and was cutting his teeth on the six stringed ax while listening to a mix of blues and early rock. One can see the blending of these influences in this CD, where Slim Harpo, Jimmy Reed and Hound Dog Taylor meet Peter Green and Mike Bloomfield.

I've enjoyed John's music for many years, but it seems to me he's even turned it up an additional notch with this recording. I saw him live on Saturday, April 14th in the midst of reviewing this CD and I also saw him a couple of times last year, so many of the tunes were familiar to me. His live shows are filled with the same electricity and energy as this album is. He recorded this live in the studio with minimal overdubs, so what you hear on this record is hot stuff.

"Rockin' Hot" is another of the big, driving numbers that bring the dancers out- your feet just want to move to the strains of his guitar and the back beat of Bob Halaj on bass and Albert "Joey" DiMarco on drums. It's just three guys but they produce a huge sound and make for a fiery CD. "She's rockin' hot" groans John as he sings of his woman, and the same can be said for this CD- it is rockin' hot! He stays on that theme with "Fine Little Machine", singing of being the driver for his woman's fine little machine. "Fire Down Below" features blistering harp by Grimaldi and Doug Organ appears on the B3 (the only track where the trio expands). Hot, hot stuff. The innuendos are not deep, but they don't need to be as they remind us of blues lyrics from days past. He's got some hot songs that will make believers of the those not familiar with his work really impress those who are.

He occasionally takes the pace down a bit. The stuff in the lower gears is equally appealing. "Mesmerized" features a Latin-styled beat while "Disease Called Love" dips into the swampy side of the blues. "Dark Night' is really the only other tempo cut; but they all drip with authenticity and goodness. He handles any tempo with ease and delivers powerfully moving music to the listener at all paces.

Other songs of interest are, well ,all of the cuts. I can't single out each and every other but a few bear mention. "Deal With the Devil" is a pounding, and hauntingly cool song where John grabs you like the devil can. "She Got It Right (Dress So Tight) is another track that will get heart pumping and folks on their feet and dancing. A huge guitar solo where John takes a tour way down the neck of the guitar in a whirling and squealing 100 mph drive. And, of course, the title track is so, so true- old school rockin' done just right!

14 original tracks done by a Chicago blues original. This album is a non-brainer- buy it now. It is one of the hottest CDs I've heard in a long time and one of the best CDs I've heard in the past year! Every time I hear it I love it even more; do not pass this one up! Studebaker John has really outdone himself.

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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