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Forrest McDonald - Certified Blue
World Talent Records
13 tracks; 53:16 minutes; Splendid
Style: Electric Blues variety
Why does a “Keeping the Blues Alive Award” even exist? Why did Forrest McDonald write the song (track one) “Keeping the Blues Alive” and why did Teeny Tucker title her latest album “Keep the Blues Alive”? Without delving deeply into each side’s arguments about the necessity or non-necessity of special efforts, it’s safe to conclude many feel the Blues need extra fostering and nurturing to survive.
“We have an art form lacking edge and lacking relevance.” I keep thinking about this answer Australian Bluesman Sugarcane Collins gave me in a recent interview when I asked him, “...what is going to keep the Blues Alive?” In part, he responded, “... go[ing] beyond the old time traditional Blues themes of love and money. ... how often do we need to hear about ‘I love my baby but my baby don’t love me?’ ... that line ... sums up the lyric content of most Blues records. ...in my opinion, we have an art form lacking edge and lacking relevance. Where are the songs that reflect other current concerns? Songs about our threatened environment and the social injustice that abounds, not just in this country, but all over the world?”
I congratulate Forrest McDonald for including such a relevant-topic-song, “Gas Pump Blues Revisited,” on his fourth CD as the Forrest McDonald Band. Check his lyrics, “Well there is only so much oil on this precious earth/Yea there's only so much oil on this precious earth/And It will soon be running out/And things are gonna get worse.”
I think a challenge should be issued: Recording artists one and all, try to include at least one relevant topic song (beyond “love and money”) on each new CD.
“Certified Blue” is a solid outing by a veteran of Blues scenes all around the United States and overseas who has been performing since 1964 and recording since 1972. Originally from Austin, Texas, and now based in Virginia, Forrest McDonald (guitar, organ, vocal on “Double Back”) with his wife and lead vocalist, Kaylon McDonald, have combined forces to record nine original songs and four covers in the studio with Chuck Williams - Sax, Bob Saydolwski and John McKnight- Drums, Lee Gammon – Bass, Barry Richman and Terry Garland – additional guitars, John Liebman – harp and vocals, Little Ronnie Owens – harp, and Roddy Barnes – piano on “Chicken Scratch Boogie.”
For some pure fun, try that upbeat, bouncy shuffle, “Chicken Scratch Boogie,” with lyrics like, “Well, I am no spring chick, but I can sure make a rooster crow!” Kaylon’s vocals are clear and enthusiastic and the entire band is really hopping with instruments “crowing.”
The set opener, “Keeping the Blues Alive,” is a party starter with McDonald impressively showing off his studied guitar licks. John Liebman’s harp kicks off the greasy Blues on “Rock & Roll Bye Bye Bye” followed by his gut bucket vocals heard again on a ripping version of “Piney Brown.”. Their take on Johnny Winter’s “You Keep Telling Me” is a nice slow Blues number almost a s good as the title track, sung by Kaylon.
“Yes, I'm in my car rolling down 95/I got to keep on moving I got to keep the blues alive.
...Yes the party starts when we get up on that stage/I'll be singing the blues until my dying day.” - From track one “Keeping the Blues Alive.” With attitudes like that and CDs like this one, Forrest McDonald and a pantheon of others will succeed!
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 www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL.
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