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Alabama Mike - Tailor Made Blues

Juke House Records

11 tracks; 49:16 minutes; Suggested

Style: Contemporary Electric and Traditional Blues, Soul-Blues, Jump-Blues

Alabama Mike sure does know Mississippi. That is the impression one gets from the opening, title track of his wonderful, sophomore CD, “Tailor Made Blues.” “Mississippi girl, make your dress tail pop. I like the way you make those big hips rock,” he sings with a gifted Blues voice that shames wannabe pretenders. As the story continues, a love buzzard gets his hands on Mike’s woman, and Mike tells him to get one of his own “tailor made” Mississippi girls. Then, using the most wonderful and authentic sounding Southern accent, he sing-says a long list of Mississippi Delta towns where one can be found.

Already nominated for a 2010 Blues Blast Music Award for Best New Artist Debut for his CD, “Day to Day,” Alabama Mike Benjamin is readily worthy of note. Born in Talladega, Alabama, in 1964, and now a resident in California, Mike was influenced by the Gospel singing of his father, and he also developed a love for Chicago Blues. Singing since age 13, it has only been in the last four to five years that Mike’s professional opportunities arose, especially to record. What started as a few cuts on a compilation CD for producer Scott Silveira turned into a full blown Alabama Mike CD. The two had to start their own indie record company (Juke House) to release “Day to Day.”

On “Tailor Made Blues” Alabama Mike handles all the vocals, and no less than nineteen instrument musicians guest in the studio. The album includes three songs by Benjamin; the rest are penned by featured studio musicians, and there’s one by Jon and Sally Tiven. Only Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man” is covered. The CD was recorded in the San Francisco studio of “9 Below Productions,” a growing collective of musicians, artists, producers, and engineers. It was founded in late 2007 by Scot Brenton who co-produced this CD, also adding guitar and harmonica.

The opening, title track is an instantly ear-pleasing, upbeat, full band production (with four horns and percussion). It was well placed, getting the listener into a real-deal Blues mood. Guy Arrostuto’s Hammond organ and Anthony Paule’s stinging guitar are standouts.

Also radio ready is the slow grinding “Eddie Lee” about a former friend, now a girl stealing, shotgun pointing badass. Scot Brenton is just killer on harp. His name is not one I knew, but he plays harmonica throughout the CD with skills and styles to equal any of today’s “big name” players. This song is an Alabama Mike original done from the heart and soul; by the end of the song, I don’t like that fother mucking Eddie Lee either!

“Go Ahead” features nasty electric slide guitar by Jon Lawton who backs it with acoustic guitar on the easy going “I’m Gone,” accompanied only by Kedar Roy on bass and Brenton on harp. “Moon Dog Howl”’s Trance-Blues rhythm underlies Chicago guitarist Tom Holland creating art beside Scot Brenton also on guitar. Solid all the way through, the only misstep is “Hoo Doo Man” seeming out of place among all the originals.

How many of these nineteen studio musicians can Alabama Mike get out on the road with him? Based on these first two CDs, people will want to see this cat live. I know I do!

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

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