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BoPoMoFo - Hell Froze Over

Self Released (not currently working)

11 tracks

A self-released CD recorded at the legendary Sun Recording Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Blues, recorded in Memphis by a band from Taiwan with an American singer with a deep, profundo bass voice leading the way. Okay. Who are these guys and where the heck did these guys come from?

I was listening to the Nighthawks on The Bob Edwards Show on NPR via Sirius/XM radio the other day and they were talking about one of their tours in Japan. They commented that the blues (and American music in general) seemed to have been adopted everywhere American GIs frequented after WWII. Japan, Europe, Taiwan and Korea had strong ties to the US GIs stationed there and the blues seemed to stick quite well. Most of us are familiar with Europe and the influence of Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and the many acts that toured there in the early to mid-60’s and gave rise to strong blues influenced music from there. Few of us hear bands from Asia, particularly Taiwan since we have worked of late to be in favor with the mainland and it’s cheap labor force. Well, BoPoMoFo touts itself as “Taiwan’s foremost proponent of hard rockin’ Chicago Blues” and I can’t argue much about that because they are a fun and an interesting band!

BoPoMoFo warrants a little explanation of what the name means. Literally, it is a phonetic system for transcribing Chinese (usually Mandarin) in order to help them learn the language. Consisting of 37 letters and 4 tone marks, it is more than an alphabet and allows the user to transcribe all the sounds in Mandarin Chinese. Popularized in Taiwan, it is a standard on the Personal Computer for use on the keyboard.

Adding to the mystique is front man DC “deacon” Rapier. Singing in his deep and profound bass voice, he is a real presence at the mic. He also fills in with the harp and rhythm guitar. Not a lot of deep basses front bands, especially blues bands (Sleepy LaBeef comes quickly to mind but not a lot of others who sing in the rich, lower ranges), so DC’s vocals stand out and get noticed. With every listen his vocals grew more and more on me. Aki “The Flame” Ikeda on guitar, Daisuke “Dafu” Neishi on drums, Micael “Steel Fingers” Tennant on bass and Klaus “Mr. Fixer Tseng on keys round out the band. They are a talented bunch who have put together a nice little CD.

All the guitar, bass and drum work was recorded live and all the songs except for the last one are originals. Rapier wrote 8 tracks by himself had his hand in another with Michael Rapier, and Tseng wrote the other tune. The tracks are predominantly a jump blues style with lyrics ranging from traditional blues topics to the whimsical. They begin with “Blues Floozy”, where Rapier laments about this hot women who appears while he’s out with his main squeeze and he swears that “She’s just a blues floozy”. Apparently he makes out okay because the woman stands up to her and cold cocks the “blues floozy”, knocking her out. Rapier's vocals here and throughout are deep and distinct, whether doing slow blues like “Back Alley Angel” or rocking to tunes like “You Done Me Wrong”. His lyrics are interesting (eg “I’m going Biblical- I’m gonna swap you an eye for an eye” on “You Done Me Wrong”). Ikeda’s fretwork is understated yet equally interesting. He approaches this and he rest of the tracks with a fresh sound, using a few tricks and fuzziness here and there to add appeal. Tseng’s keys add a nice touch and his lead vocals on his song “All I Do” are a nice contrast to Rapiers’. William “Honeyboy” Janssen adds his sax on “What Went Wrong”, which blends well with Rapier’s vocal, Ikeda’s guitar solos and Tseng’s organ. Rapier’s harp is greasy and very authentic Chicago, highlighted on tracks like “Making My Ulcer Bleed”. His lyrics here again give a bit of a chuckle, with all the angst from the thing his baby does to him to make his ulcer bleed. They close with the Beatle’s “I Saw Her Standing There”; they turn this into a slow blues with a deep, driving beat provided by Tennant. It is quite the interesting take on a familiar song. The deep vocals, bass line and down tempo offer a unique and different approach to this song.

At first I was unsure how I felt about these guys. The bass vocals are quite stark and different but between that and the often lighthearted lyrics it really grows on you quickly. Ikeda’s guitar is harnessed in and not overdone. The organ/keyboard work by Tseng fills in nicely and the back beat by Tenant and Neishi are tight and appropriate. It’s a cool production done by a talented set of musicians and as an initial offering from this band I have to give it a “thumbs up”! Check them out on line on Facebook and Youtube to see for yourself!

Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL

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