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Little Joe McLerran - Facebook Blues

Root Blues Reborn Records

13 songs; 43:24 minutes; Library Quality

Styles: Finger Picked Piedmont Blues

In 1960s Social Studies classes, the joke about Communism was: “All are equal, but some are ‘more equal’ than others.” Similarly, all musicians are unique, but some are “more unique” than others. Little Joe McLerran is among the most unique. On Thursday, May 17, 2011, a performance by Little Joe opened the 2011 Friends of the Blues concert season. Joe and his dad (Robbie Mack) played as a duo. Persons commented after the show, "I can see a band [with a flatpicking, loud, electric guitar hero] anytime -- tonight was really special!" That expression sprang from Little Joe’s impressive and clearly different style.

Born in Colorado in 1983, Tulsa, Oklahoma singer/songwriter/guitarist Little Joe McLerran's deft specialty is finger-picking Piedmont-style blues; he's played it as long as he can remember and is one of only a handful still alive who do and do it well. Wikipedia says, “Piedmont blues (aka East Coast blues) refers primarily to a guitar style, the Piedmont finger style, which is characterized by a finger picking approach in which a regular, alternating thumb bass string rhythmic pattern supports a syncopated melody using the treble strings generally picked with the fore-finger, occasionally others. The result is comparable in sound to ragtime or stride piano styles. Coined by blues researcher Peter B. Lowry, who in turn gives co-credit to fellow folklorist Bruce Bastin, the Piedmont style is differentiated from other styles, particularly the Mississippi Delta blues, by its ragtime-based rhythms.”

But, Piedmont-style Blues is not all that makes Little Joe unique; Memphis’s 2009 International Blues Challenge solo/duo winner is a music ambassador for the US State Department. McLerran has been taking his Blues to all corners of the Earth. In the spring of 2010, on behalf of Jazz at Lincoln Center and the US State Department, Little Joe took his band for a month long tour of Middle Eastern countries Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. "He was singing ‘Hair Parted in the Middle’ to veiled University girls in Saudi Arabia, and they were going crazy," witnessed Robbie Mack. 2011 and 2012 found him touring Paraguay, and most recently, Colombia, South America, in his work with the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.

His travels have helped inspire his fourth album, "FaceBook Blues." The 13-track album, over a year, three studios and a slew of guest artists in the making, includes six original tunes including the title track. “Well, actually, I was probably about the last person on earth to get a computer,” laughed McLerran in a recent interview by Terry Mullins for Blues Blast magazine. “While I was out in Paraguay, my wife bought a computer, and when I got back home, we were all set up on Facebook and all that stuff. But I’m just so low-tech. But yeah, that’s what [“Facebook Blues”] is all about – frustration with all the new technology and stuff. I’m just trying to get into the loop.”

The title track was the first track we played on the Friends of the Blues Radio Show. It’s a full production number with horns and an upbeat rhythm and melody that make it a guaranteed ear-worm. The song’s story line finds the narrator’s girlfriend with a page on Facebook and no time for him anymore. So, he gets his own page. “ ...sounds like a joke, but I get tagged and poked – [it all] leaves me with the Facebook Blues.” Can you relate?

Our next spin, “Gotta Move,” is a slide guitar and harmonica shuffle masterpiece inspired by Little Joe’s friendship with the late author, Homesick James. Another great song in the same tempo and style is Tampa Red’s “Black Hearted Woman.” We played original “My Gal Kay” – intended for all fans of double entendre lyrics: “If You See Kay…” Can you spell? Hey, it’s an old joke, but Little Joe is too young to know. Before Thomas A. Dorsey got religion, his early Blues was full of double entendre, witness track two “Billy the Grinder.”
Little Joe McLerran continues to grow as both a musician and an ambassador of the Blues. This album is a good picture of where he and his band are at the moment. Undoubtedly, his sound will continue to evolve and incorporate more international influences, but this new CD strikes a balance and still favors his Piedmont style background. You can hear a loud, electric guitar hero band anytime; Little Joe McLerran and this CD are really special!!

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

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