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Mark May Band - In Texas Live

Flyin’ Dog Records

7 tracks/65:53

Guitarist Mark May used to front the Agitators and had several strong releases with that band. He also was a member of Dickey Betts and Great Southern about ten years ago.

His latest recording captures him live on a variety of stages over a seven-year period beginning in 2002. His band includes Paul Ramirez on guitar, Dan Cooper on bass and Clyde Dempsey on drums with all three men contributing vocals. Three additional guitar players, who appear on five of the tracks, augment the group.

This one is definitely a feast for listeners who never get tired of hearing guitar licks, especially if they are delivered with fleet fingers and an aggressive attitude. With the shortest track clocking in at just over six minutes, there is plenty of room for all of the axe men to stretch out. Opening with a May original, “You’re Leaving Baby”, the leader is joined by Kirk McKim, a member of the Pat Travers Band, for an energetic romp through this fast shuffle that ends with McKim and May trading leads at the end. It is followed by “Blue Monday”, a song popularized by Albert Collins, one of May’s favorite guitar players. McKim takes the first solo and tears it up before May enters on a quiet note only to steadily build the intensity with a flurry of fast runs on his guitar.

The band handles the thirteen-minute version of “Ohio” on its own, with one of the other band members taking the lead vocal. Ramirez delivers a fiery solo that sets the stage for May, who squeezes every note he can out of his guitar neck before the band shifts into the Jimi Hendrix classic “Machine Gun”. May continues to wring as much as he can from his six strings until the group switches back to “Ohio” for the big ending.

Next comes a fourteen-plus minute excursion through the Betts classic, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”. Guest guitarist Kenny Cordray and May try to recreate the classic Allman brothers twin guitar attack, adding some aural fireworks in several frenzied passages. The pace slows on a cover of another Albert Collins tune, “Lights Are on But Nobody’s Home”. May pays tribute to his mentor by recreating Collin’s guitar tone and attack before turning Ramirez loose for more guitar fireworks.

“Gangsta’s Blues” is a May original that looks at the effects of gang life, delivered with an expressive vocal and a swirling Santana-like groove. The closing track adds Matt Johnson on guitar for “Mercury Blues” that features an extended ending section that shifts gears several times before finishing with “The Star Spangled Banner”.

May and his friends definitely deliver the goods at every turn. If you enjoy blues-rock guitar, you are going to love this recording. Others may find that this release pushes their tolerance level for guitar solos to the limit. Quality stuff – check it out for yourself!!

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.

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