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Guitar Shorty - Bare Knuckles

Alligator Records

12 Tracks

This is Guitar Shorty’s third release on Alligator Records and I have all three. I have seen him a number of times and I have enjoyed every outing. Guitar Shorty was born Davie Kearney in Houston Texas in 1939 but was raised in Kissimmee Florida. For over 50 years he has been known by musicians in the know. As a teen in Florida, he played in a local 18 piece band where a club owner dubbed him Guitar Shorty. Early on, he was a featured member of Ray Charles’ road band and later, Sam Cooks’ road band. He settled in Los Angeles until recently. With his own bands he has opened for Guitar Slim, Little Milton, Johnny Copeland, and T-Bone Walker. He has always been busy but in the last decade Guitar Shorty is flying above the radar to become known to the general populace and getting his due.

“I’ve Been Working” was my favorite Guitar Shorty song until now. With Bare Knuckles, I have multiple favorites. The CD opens with a tongue in cheek commentary on stimulus monies in “Please Mr. President.” “Slow Burn,” however, ain’t no tongue in cheek editorial. Back in the day, a “rap” was spoken word, an aside or soliloquy, to the listener, not some tuneless rhyme over samples of other peoples’ music. Old School is cool. Guitar Shorty uses this device to get his message across in “Slow Burn.” “Opportunities are zero even for a combat hero…When a vet comes back missing an arm or a leg, did he lose all that for the right to beg?” Then the refrain is sung, “And you start to give in to the rage within.” Ironically, slow burn also describes the groove of the music on this track. The rest of the songs on the CD are on familiar blues themes: love found, love lost, and in the case of “Temporary Man,” love found for the short term. “Texas Women” is a tribute to the women of Texas. I’m from Ohio and I like to think that the song describes me perfectly. In “Too Late” his thrill is gone. With Guitar Shorty being born in Texas, raised in Florida, and residing in Los Angeles, a little Latin flava is bound to show itself from time to time. “Neverland” is one of those times. “True Love” and “Temporary Man” rock. “Betrayed” is the blusiest of the set. “Too Hard to Love You” and “Bad Memory are the funkiest.

Sting and grit are the words that best describe Bare Knuckles: stinging guitar, gritty vocals and lyrics. Again, old school is cool; old fashioned is not. Guitar Shorty proves that the blues does not have to be old fashioned to be true.

Reviewer Sheralyn Graise graduated from the University of Akron a while back. A former Social Services professional, she is now pursuing other interests such as music history, writing, and photography. She has been a member of the Blues Foundation since 2001.

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