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Blinddog Smokin’ - Up From The Tracks (CD, DVD, Booklet)
9 songs; 45:07 minutes on CD
2 segments; approx. 60:00 minutes on DVD
Rating: Reference Quality
Styles: Modern Electric Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Funk
I never begin a review in this manner, but, in this case, there are things you need to know immediately: Carl Gustafson is a literary and artistic genius. He has created a masterpiece. It comes in an elegant package with a CD of the songs, a DVD with two explanatory vignettes, and a twelve page color booklet with song lyrics and each song’s personnel. I have given it my highest rating of “Reference Quality” because it will be a benchmark when other aging artists want to compile their life’s work and road stories into one fantastic release.
Typically, a project like this comes at the end of a career or when the artist is dying. Gustafson is neither at a career end nor dying, but he thought he was. His own words from the DVD, “This project started with a heart attack.”
Carl Gustafson is the leader and singer for Blinddog Smokin’ which has released eight CDs and forty-one original songs since 1993. The eight-piece band has performed coast to coast and internationally since 1992. They appeared three times on the main stage at the King Biscuit Blues Festival and were on the cover of the now defunct King Biscuit Time Magazine with Bobby Rush. Carl is now the festival promoter for the Snowy Range Music Festival in Wyoming, his home State.
Watch the DVD first before listening to the CD. One DVD segment features Gustafson explaining the story behind each song. By watching this first, it will enhance your appreciation of the songs.
The nine songs: Carl draws from his extensive travels during his decades-long musical career. “I bring moments to life for everybody to examine and learn from, and hopefully, be entertained by,” he says. For example, “If you give yourself to the lyrics of Miss Peggy’s After-hours Pic-a-Rib Café, which I wrote about a special lady, a unique place, and a poignant time in my life, you can actually go there with me and share my fondness of that memory. To me, that’s what it’s all about, this music business—not money, not fame, not prestige, just eloquent enlightenments."
Across the songs, we meet more real people: a prostitute who told the band to make their music sound “like money,” a preacher disillusioned by religion, Bobby Rush joining the singing about his legendary bus, a man who loves two women in an painful situation, and the ghost of Sonny Boy Williamson II telling about coming home to Helena to die. The songs are performed by a who’s who of instrumentalists and background vocalists, all Blues stars from Chicago, Mississippi, California, and Texas, including special guests Billy Branch, Sherman Robertson, Carl Weathersby, and Bobby Rush.
Carl Gustafson holds a unique status in the Blues world. “As a writer for many Blues publications and a columnist for Elmore Magazine, his ‘Kickin’ In Your Stall’ has appeared in every issue over the years. A compulsive writer, he records and ponders everything and everyone from his years of adventuring. In his colorful Blues stories, he draws upon a diverse background that includes growing up working on cattle ranches, a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, a theological education, seven years in the ministry, ownership of a popular roadhouse, vice president of an oil company, president of a mining company, co-founder of Wayfarer’s Catalog Company, years of seminar speaking, and two decades on the road living the reckless, bohemian, lifestyle of a back roads blues man,” reads on-line publicity.
It’s simple: delay all other purchases and get this package -- they don’t come around like this often!!
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL.