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Open Blues – Seta w ryja!

Self Release 2010

9 tracks; 38.15 minutes

Open Blues is a five piece band from Torun in Poland with a fairly standard line-up of harp/vocals (Przemyslaw Losos)), guitar/vocals (Wieslaw Krysewski), keyboards (Igor Nowicki), bass (Tomasz Imienowski) and drums (Grzegorz Minicz). They have been together since 2008 and this is their first CD. It was recorded live in a local club in Torun, though apart from a little crowd noise at the end of the tracks it would be difficult to tell, as the recording is excellent. The album consists of four originals and five covers. The originals are all in Polish.

The immediate concern is not understanding the Polish lyrics. However, I have to ask myself the obvious question: how do speakers of other languages get on with English lyrics and access American or English blues songs? Well, English is a wider spoken and understood language than Polish, but I was faced with an issue here (which I recognise is my own inadequacy in not speaking any Polish). So, I have simply evaluated the performance on the originals, not being able to appreciate the lyrics (though I did have the advantage of a translation facility on the laptop – my apologies if those are not the intended titles!)

The CD opens with “Blues Zawaladnal Moja Dusza” (Blues Possessed My Soul), some sharp harp introducing a shuffle with excellent piano, including a nice solo. The title song Seta W Ryja! (Set In The Snout!) is anchored by a strong guitar riff and an enthusiastic chorus.

The first cover is John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom”, played pretty straight. The singer has certainly an accent but the lyrics are perfectly understandable, especially given that this is a live recording – I have heard less clear English bands, to be honest. Here the keyboard player has switched to organ and interchanges swirling solos with the harp. The song zips along and was very enjoyable. Jimmy Rogers’ “Walking By Myself” follows, probably learned from the late Gary Moore’s cover. High note harp introduces the tune and the piano is back. I did not find the vocal as convincing here as on “Boom Boom”.

The longest track on the CD is “The Thrill Is Gone” which is played at a relaxed pace, the piano again playing some lovely jazzy chords beneath the lyrics. The vocalist struggles at times with this song, his voice seeming better suited to the uptempo songs. The guitar player uses a scat vocal technique with his solo, reminding me of George Benson. There is also a solo on synth sounding like a flute.

The last four tracks alternate Polish and English lyrics. “Mysle O Tym” (Don’t Think About It) is a catchy little tune led by the harp. That is a good way of leading into Junior Wells’ “Messin’ With The Kid” where there are solos for piano, guitar and harp, the tune being taken at the usual fast pace we all know. “Komu Bije Blues” (For Whom Blues) is another uptempo shuffle with the guitar and harp prominent. Final track is Willie Dixon’s “I Want To Be Loved”. Somewhat to my surprise this is not taken at breakneck speed as it often is. The tune is therefore closer to the original and I notice that the singer actually uses “I wants to be loved” in the chorus – very authentic. The harp is again at the front of the solos, with electric piano next.

All the tracks bar one are quite short, three or four minutes, so solos are short and to the point. The CD is well arranged and played and the band seem to have been very well prepared for the recording. Overall I found this a good listen, especially the instrumental playing where all the solo instruments were excellent. The vocals are not quite as good, but acceptable. It is great to find bands in countries a long way from the USA interested and motivated by the blues to produce their own material in a blues vein and I commend the Open Blues guys for their efforts.

The CD is available from the band’s website.

 Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music. He was recently on the January 2011 Legendary Blues Cruise.

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