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Rob Blaine - Big Otis Blues

Swississippi Records

12 tracks 52:41

A fixture in Chicago clubs (from Rosa’s to B.L.U.E.S) for some time now, Rob Blaine and his boys grab you from the first note of the first song on this CD. This is Blaine taken out of his usual band (The Chicago R&B Kings) and placed in the spot light.

The CD is a nice mix of originals and a small number of covers. If there is anything to complain about its not in the music but in the liner notes which are a tad over-wrought: “sometimes it’s a long run of splintery notes, sometimes it’s big chunks that he yanks from the instrument.” could be a definition of what is meant by hyperbole. Still, if that’s all there is to complain about let’s get back to the music.

On the opener Blaine delivers the vocal with considerable power and the outstanding bass work from Joewaun ‘Man’ Scott nicely balances the Wha-Wah guitar delivered with panache by the front man.

‘Only Mine’ is a nice song, but it is a vehicle veering towards the middle of the road. The song, which features some expert axe work, comes with a rather strange kind of country (ie Nashville) tone to the guitar part. (Is it a ‘tele rather than the usual SG?) ‘Affection and Pain’ is a nice slow-burning tune with a Hendrix sounding guitar and a super bass part.

On ‘Same old Blues’ Blaine produces some BB King sounding licks on this oldie written by Don Nix wich comes with piano and organ filling out the ensemble. It’s terrific.

Check out ‘Don’t Burn Down The Bridge’ for an excellent, driving version of an Albert King original and whatever you do don’t miss ‘Hourglass Baby’ a stomping shuffle which deserved to be covered by someone like Buddy Guy before long. A nod here to the wonderful driving bass work again by Joewaun ‘Man’ Scott.

There is an instrumental (‘Gone But Not Forgot’) principally featuring Nigel Mack on National Steel, which is nice but is little more than a filler. Blaine just strums away on an acoustic. IMHO an ill-advised and wasted opportunity.

That is followed by ‘Trouble’ which is a nice change of pace although the Popa Chubby style guitar chops are a tad noodly. "Must Be Nice" appears twice, first as a blues rock tune with some Hendrix fills and later as a solo acoustic guitar tune.

Blaine has the talent, and the chops, both vocally and instrumentally, to say nothing of the drive, to survive on the contemporary blues scene. Just a tad more care in selecting the songs and a reining back of the noodle factor, will help immensely.

Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South ( a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer ( and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central)

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