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Tommy Keys - Side Street Boogie

If you’re into straight ahead, uncluttered piano blues and jazz, then Side Street Boogie, the latest disk from New York City area barrel house bluesman Tommy Keys is just what your doctor ordered.  Indeed, it’s hard to listen to the work of the 2006 International Blues Challenge Solo Finalist and convince yourself he’s from Long Island and not New Orleans.  Combine his thoughtful lyrics with his smooth but pleading voice, and a judicious choice of backing musicians on several of the cuts, and you have with Side Street Blues the real piano boogie deal.

The disk contains six originals and a couple of traditional blues tunes combined with several nicely-done covers.  Here’s some highlights:

First up is “High Blood Pressure,” a fun-sounding danceable love song with a definite New Orleans piano bar feel and a nice jazzy piano solo riff.  Keys chases that with the first of the originals, “Rum Boogie Woogie,” a lyrically clever tune complemented by some nice walking bass.  I’m guessing Tommy wrote this one after a night at the Rum Boogie Café on Beale Street!

The bluesy original, “Singing the Blues,” is enhanced by some excellent harmonica work from Keys, followed by another original, “Lazy Day Blues,” a catchy tune that’ll remind you of sitting on the levee drowning yourself with a mimosa or mint julep in the summer sun while watching the paddle boats go by.  Even if you never sat on a levee….

Keys displays a slightly pained lilt to his voice with the original “Oh Marie,”  as he tries to coax his baby back to his bed.  He then transitions to an easy rolling rendition of the traditional blues classic, “Boogie Man.” 

If you like slow dancin’ you’ll enjoy the Keys original, “Blue Moon River” before spinning your partner into the upbeat cover of Sunnyland Slim’s “All My Life.”  Keys next calls on the harmonica of Ken Korb to spice up Robert Johnson’s “From Four Until Late,” which will transfer you from the river to the rails for long, dusty train ride back in musical time. When the train ride ends, you’ll find yourself on Bourbon Street in New Orleans for Mardi Gras for Keys’ instrumental send-up of the traditional, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

You can almost feel the blues dripping off “Early in the Morning,” before Keys wraps up by bringing out the steel pedal guitar for the original, “A Song For You,” a tune with a strong down home country blues style.

If you have fond memories of the piano bar at Pat O’Briens around the corner and down a side street from New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, then you’ll want to wrap yourself around this one.

Two hurricane glasses up for Tommy Keys and Side Street Boogie.  To hear some of the CD tracks, CLICK HERE

Rob Paullin is a long-time radio and television journalist.  He has also taught at universities in the USA, Eastern Europe and China

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