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Teeny Tucker
Two Big M’s
TeBo Records

By Ben Cox
Run Time: 30:50

Imagine two of the most infamous female blues singers of all time jammed together into one disc, sprinkle in a little bit of a Memphis gospel icon, add some male blues royalty on top of that and you have the ingredients for Teeny Tucker’s lastest album “Two Big M’s.”

The two infamous blues singers are Big Maybelle and Big Mama Thornton, to whom the album is dedicated to and from whom most of the songs on this disc come from. The Memphis gospel icon I speak of is Mavis Staples, whom Tucker’s voice instantly reminded me of and brought to my mind, especially her younger days on Stax when the Staples Singers hadn’t quite crossed over to mainstream yet, and the male blues royalty I speak of is Teeny’s father Tommy Tucker.

Teeny has been in the international blues limelight since her debut at the Apollo in 1996. Teeny went on to form a blues band with 2006 IBC winner Sean Carney and subsequently finished in the Top 3 for three straight years before Carney broke away to his own band and success a few years ago. Teeny has since recruited a new guitar player and musical partner in Robert Hughes and beginning to forge her own way with this current disc that’s sure to be a favorite of 2008.

Teeny’s vocals blast loud and clear into a sassy gospel-tinged blues singer with the commonly overdone “Hound Dog” on track one, the signature of Big Mama Thornton’s catalog. However, with the spare and tight arrangement and Teeny’s sassy but pure vocal gift, the song is anything but tired. Teeny is one of the few gifted artists who can channel the feel of an artist she’s covering but still calling the songs her own. My personal favorite is the innuendo-laced “Bumble Bee” again from Thornton’s catalog. David Gastel adds some great acoustic harmonica rhythm playing as well as some accentuated and abrupt solos here and there, but never over the top and never fancy, just some good ol’ straight ahead blues.

Another song that will probably be immediately snatched up by radio is the infamous “Whole Lotta Shakin’,” which many know as a Jerry Lee Lewis signature. However, this is no Jerry Lee Lewis tribute and it sure isn’t a rock n roll album, either. Teeny & Co. break it down with a classic R&B almost Texas shuffle with some brilliant piano work by Vernon Hairston. Also, complimentary throughout the album is Robert Hughes less is more approach to the guitar. Never one to burn brighter than Teeny but he’s not a shabby compliment to her at all. In fact, Hughes chicken pecks around accents to Teeny’s vocals is what blues guitar should be about. Solos are swiftly in mood and lushly steeped in the tradition that these songs come forth from. In fact, Hughes reminds me of the young Buddy Guy in some parts from those Muddy Waters Band sessions that Big Mama Thornton recorded some of her more infamous sides.

With most of the tracks not running more than three and a half minutes, you might feel that the disc is here and then its gone. Meaning that you’ll probably be giving it more than one spin in your car or CD player trying to go back and find the little things you liked but missed the first time around. And, it’s just another tip of the hat to minimal arrangements allowing the songs and the musicianship not fall into the trap of being so relaxed that they become lazy. In fact, it makes the disk and those playing on it more brilliant and unbelievable by capturing the sound and feel and more importantly the groove in those three or so minutes. If you love traditional blues with a touch of the contemporary or a bit of an update, I highly recommend this disc to you.

Ben Cox is a Blues Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Journalist.

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