Back To Reviews page

Uphill - Blues & Mojo


13 tracks/56:54

Uphill is a quartet from North Carolina that consists of Chris “Catdaddy” Palestrant on keyboards & vocals, Deacon Blues – Adam Nixon- on electric guitars, harmonica & vocals, Tim Orton on bass and Isaiah Hunter on drums. The setlist is comprised of seven covers and six original compositions, four from Nixon and two from Palestrant.

The problem with recording well-known tunes is that your performance needs to be really strong or very unique to create a lasting impression over better-known renditions. Uphill lays down on a strong take on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killin” Floor”, with a gruff vocal and distorted guitar from the Deacon. The blues standard, “Help Me”, features Deacon Blues on harmonica, a strong beat from Hunter and Palestrant on organ filling in the arrangement. The Deacon lays down some gritty slide guitar licks on Muddy Water’s “One More Mile” and sings with conviction over the slow beat.

Other covers don’t fare as well. Palestrant’s vocal on “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” fails to excite and Hunter plays a stiff beat that never approaches the loose, second-line groove of the original version. Palestrant does take several solos that show he has a solid command of the piano keyboard. The band does a brief, straightforward cover of “Hot Rod Lincoln” that is probably more exciting when heard live from the stage. “Flip, Flop and Fly” gives Palestrant another opportunity to showcase his strong technique on piano but the track ends up feeling lightweight.

Nixon’s “Big Easy” is a slow, deep blues about New Orleans and failed love that features a measured vocal from Deacon and some of his best guitar work on the disc. The band really excels on the slower tracks, consistently creating the necessary amount of emotional weight needed for a convincing performance. The interplay between Palestrant’s piano and Deacon’s guitar on the opening passage of “My Time (Might Be Over)” perfectly establishes the mood of late-night despair and brooding emotions inherent in the song’s lyrics. Palestrant drives the arrangement on his original, “Nightlife”, seated behind his organ. His spirited vocal works hard to tame the over-wrought lyrics. “The Legend of the One Honest Man” allows the band to show it’s humorous side on an up-tempo rocker. The lone instrumental, “Drop Top”, gives the Deacon and Palestrant an opportunity to stretch out, with the Deacon taking honors for his smooth guitar lines. “Speed Train Blues” open the disc with a boogie beat and has the Deacon on guitar and harp.

There are enough strong performances on this disc to warrant a listen from most blues fans. Given the strength of the band’s original material, they might have been better served to cut back on the covers in favor more of their own songs. Uphill can wring plenty of emotion out of the slower-paced cuts. The faster tempo pieces are a mixed bunch that suffer by comparison. If the band’s live show matches most of the performances on the disc, they should be able to sell plenty of copies of Blues & Mojo from the stage.

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL

To submit a review or interview please contact:


Home  |  Contact  |  Submit Your Blues News - Advertise with
 Copyright - 2007 - Design by: