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Dave Arcari – Devil’s Left Hand

Buzz Records

12 tracks, 33.06 minutes.

Dave Arcari is from Scotland and has produced a number of solo albums over recent years while maintaining a relentless touring programme across Europe and Canada. His latest CD is entirely solo, voice and National Resophonic guitar, apart from drums on one track. The material here includes 7 originals alongside covers of songs by Johnny Cash, Richard M Jones (“Trouble In Mind”, often associated with Big Bill Broonzy) and the inevitable Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. In addition Dave has put one of Scottish national poet/hero Robert Burns’ poems to music, a repetition of a successful effort on his previous CD.

Dave sings in a gruff voice with a strong Scottish accent which works especially well with dramatic pieces such as the title song “Devil’s Left Hand” which relates the traditional encounter between guitar player and Satan, but here Dave gets the better of Old Nick – “The Devil’s left hand reached across the Styx, I drank all his whisky and learned some of his tricks”! Keeping to the satanic theme the next original is “Devil’s Deal”, a song in which the Devil is trying to contact Dave, initially without success until he comes at night, but is still rejected by Dave “the next time you try to reach me, offer me a better deal”.

“Cotton On My Back” sounds a little like Johnny Cash, especially with lyrics like “Some say I’m a bad guy, I always dress in black I don’t think you should judge me by the cotton on my back. I might be a little messed up, but that don’t give you the right to take me for the Devil, I won’t go without a fight”. “Hangman’s Blues” is another dramatic tune with the fatalistic line “I didn’t come here to make a speech, I just came here to die”. “One Side Blind” is a slower piece about not jumping to conclusions and criticising without understanding.

“Texicali Waltz” is a song that Dave reprises here from an earlier CD. There is a country/americana feel to it and Dave ends with a short waltz time section too! The final original is “Dragonfly”, a short piece with drums (Paul Savage), an aggressive piece which worked less well for me than the rest of the album – quite ‘punk’ in its approach, in my view.

The covers are all well done. “Trouble In Mind” is the only number on which Dave moves away from the resonator and uses a Telecaster. The classic song is taken at a slow pace and is probably the gentlest song on the album. RJ’s “Come On In My Kitchen” leans heavily on the slide and is played rather more slowly than in many versions. Again, Dave’s voice fits this one like a glove and you can see this working really well live. “Can’t Be Satisfied” is one of my favourite Muddy Waters tunes and is one that is often covered, not least by acoustic or semi acoustic performers. Dave’s version is pretty straightforward but works well. On Johnny Cash’s “Blue Train” Dave sounds quite like the man in black himself and does the song justice.

That leaves the adaption of the Burns poem “MacPherson’s Lament”. Not surprisingly, it’s another cheerful song about a hanging! Dave’s music starts in a slow and stately manner before he sings Burns’ poem that deals with the final words and actions of a man who has been condemned to hang for his crimes. Burns, of course, wrote partly in dialect and Dave keeps much of the original wording, so it’s not easy to get all the words. MacPherson apparently was a fiddler of renown and played a tune before his execution. He then offered his fiddle to the crowd and when nobody came forward broke it across his knee. The broken pieces of the fiddle are in a clan museum in Scotland.

Overall an enjoyable acoustic album with quite a theme running through it. The Devil’s Music indeed!

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He recently attended the Blues Blast Awards in Chicago and had a great time! Back in the USA for the January 2011 Blues Cruise!

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