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Meyer Rossabi - Blues Is the Color

Self Release

12 tracks - Total time: 44:24

New York City singer/songwriter/guitarist Meyer Rossabi started playing guitar at 11, and by 15 was playing in blues bands. Later he branched out into jazz, wrote the opening song and additional music for the movie Brooklyn Boys, and co-authored the Joan Jett song, “Don’t Blame Me.” Blues Is the Color is his debut CD, and an impressive one it is—12 tracks of re-created West Side Chicago guitar-driven blues in the style of Luther Allison and Jimmy Dawkins. Rossabi wrote ten of the 11 songs featured, and plays guitars and bass throughout, with excellent lead regular and slide guitar work that puts him, in my opinion, clearly among the best. A “stringular” accomplishment indeed!

The only other attributed musicians are drummers Marco Romano and Marky Ramone, 15-year veteran of the seminal punk band, the Ramones. This Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer and Lifetime Achievement Grammy winner mentions in the sleeve notes to this CD he’s provided that he’s been a long-time fan of the blues and in 1974, under the name Marc Bell, backed Johnny Shines on an album for Biograph. He and Romano provide vigorous, frenetic drumming that makes these tracks stand out percussion-wise as well. On the CD Rossabi also plays acoustic city harp both as a solo instrument and for accenting the instrumentation. But other musicianship is unattributed—the female second vocalist who appears on a couple of tracks, the solid blues piano, the organ, and the emphasizing horns, which also appear on various tracks. Rossabi’s vocals are another elegant part of the CD, good-sounding, expressive, and with added spoken encouraging shouts in several places.

This CD is one of the few modern blues albums I’ve come across where a significant number of the songs are not about those traditional staples, men-women relationships. He has several philosophical songs about life here which draw strongly from the brittle, world-wise sophistication of the modern jazz ballad, while his songs “Hurricane,” track 6, and “Deadly Ties,” track 10, concern, respectively, getting out safely from one of those horrible storms, and the tough, frustrating life of one just out of prison and back on the streets again. But Rossabi can write convincingly about men-women relationships as well, and does so with a modern flair on track 3, “Crash,” and track 7, “Modern Woman,” while on track 9, “Gone Too Far,” Rossabi approaches the subject through the traditional AAB blues-song-lyric format. Musically, there’s the mixture of variety intermixed with the modern traditional as well. Track 2, “World Gone Crazy,” has the feel of Jimi Hendrix meets the blues, while track 8, “Trust Yourself,” is an acoustic Santana-like Latin ballad, and “Deadly Ties” drives with a John Lee Hooker “Boogie “Chillun”/Z.Z. Topp “Lagrange” riff. The philosophical contemporary-rock number, tack 11’s “Train,” incorporates the voice of a conductor announcing departure time and watch-your-step caution.

Three tracks are covers of two songs. The opening track is Nick Gravenites’ “Born In Chicago,” which famously opened the first album of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The second, Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying,” is here on two tracks. Both of them notably influenced by the Stevie Ray Vaughan version. First as a studio version on track 5, and then as a trio recorded live at the Mexicali in New Jersey, with Paul Kane on drums, and with Chibo Jones’ bass complementing nicely, and appropriately filling in the space, as essentially a low-register rhythm guitar. Meyer Rossabi dedicates Blues Is the Color especially to masters Jeff Healy and Les Paul, and lists as influences a number of other seminal modern blues guitarists—an appropriate tribute indeed from one who just may end up on that list of seminal players sometime down the road as well..

Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish hails from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr. He has written a regular music column for several years. He wrote the liner notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has been a blues and pop music contributor for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy.

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