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Ivan Appelrouth – Blue And Instrumental

EllerSoul Records

15 tracks; 61.57 minutes

Ivan Appelrouth is a protégé of Duke Robillard and has been performing for some thirty years. He currently plays guitar with both Big Joe and the Dynaflows and Li’l Ronnie and the Grand Dukes. Like me, you may not have recognized his name, probably because this is his first recording as band leader. Originally the idea was to record some 50s style blues/Rn’B for potential use in film or TV soundtracks, but the recordings went so well that they held a second session and ended up with these 15, all instrumental tracks, recorded over a total time of just 10 hours in the studio.

The band here is an enlarged version of The Dynaflows with Big Joe Maher on drums and John Cocuzzi on piano throughout and Steve Potter sharing bass duties with Tommy Hannigan. Saxes and trumpet are added by Chris Watling and Dave Cwiklinski respectively and Hammond B3 by Steve Utt. Ivan plays all guitars. It is interesting to note that the band had never played these songs before the recording sessions and there is a spontaneous feel to the tracks and a real sense that the players were having a good time playing these charts.

The music is terrific throughout, most of the material being original yet naggingly familiar. That is because Ivan has composed material to honour his influences and we get tunes with titles like “Blues A La King”, “Tribute To Magic Sam”, “T-Boned Again”, etc. There are four actual covers: a superb version of Albert Collins’ “Frosty” has all the elements of Albert’s original, the horns playing ‘that’ riff and the guitar sounding very close to Albert’s style. Yet the very next track is “Strolling With Bone” and Ivan’s guitar hits the T-Bone style perfectly, the piano and horns backing him up brilliantly. “Junior Jumps” is a tune written by harp player James Montgomery incorporating some of his favorite Junior Wells harp licks. Here there is no harp, but a frenetic pace is maintained throughout, Ivan’s guitar playing the lead role in plucked style, hot piano and baying horns in support.

The only real oddity is the inclusion of Acker Bilk’s “Stranger On The Shore” which can certainly not be classed as blues. Originally a feature for clarinet, here pianist John Cocuzzi steps over to the vibes and is featured alongside the organ of Steve Utt on what is really a cocktail lounge piece. Perhaps this was one of the film/TV try outs, but for me, it sits uncomfortably with the rest of the album (despite Acker being a fellow Brit!).

Generally the album is upbeat and varied. Ivan deploys his slide style on the two takes of “Olsen Ranch Shuffle” that bookend the CD and also on “Booky’s Boogie”, a fast-paced boogie with driving drums and piano. The horn players perform excellently throughout, though there was clearly some overdubbing involved as on a tune like “Strollin’ Blues” both tenor and bari saxes can be clearly heard and I don’t think that Chris Watling played those two simultaneously!

Hard to pick favorites on this album, but if pressed I would select “The Twisted Top”, a short but sweet rocker, “T-Boned Again”, the aforementioned “Frosty” and the second version of “Olsen Ranch Shuffle” that closes the album. Overall I found this a very enjoyable CD for those who enjoy 50s style blues. If Duke Robillard floats your boat, try Ivan Appelrouth and I think you’ll enjoy the experience.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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