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Ten Foot Polecats - I Get Blamed For Everything I Do

Hillgrass Bluebilly Records

In the early 70’s, I was in the right place at the right time because thanks to my friendship with Lefty Dizz I was jamming with some great Chicago blues artists. Lefty was quite the ambassador of blues, he knew all the blues stars, and they all seemed to like him. When I was playing with Lefty, we would hang out all the time, and on nights we weren’t working, we’d go find other joints where we could sit in and play. Dizz and Hound Dog Taylor were very close and often we would end up at Florence’s or somewhere and play with Hound Dog for hours. Those two could really put away the bourbon, too….Old Grandad. As I listen to the new Ten Foot Polecat album, “I Get Blamed For Everything I Do”, I can’t help but hearken back to those old days with Hound Dog Taylor, mainly because these guys employ the same ‘bass-less’ configuration. With The Houserocker’s , it was 2 guitars and drums. Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserocker’s had Brewer Phillips playing bass lines on his guitar while Hound Dog played slide on his guitar, so the sound was similar to the Ten Foot Polecats in a way.

The Ten Foot Polecats don’t achieve a groove using a bass guitar, the ‘bottom’ is instead derived from the drummer’s bass drum beat and the lines and rhythm of the guitar. It’s a minimalist approach and does make one wonder if it’s kind of a gimmick, but music doesn’t always have to follow the expected path to work. A lot of Prince’s early work was devoid of a big bass part, unlike the other hit music at the time, and that sound he created helped influence other interesting musical experimentation.

The first cut of the album is called, “Chicken Head Man” and shows off just how strong a groove Jim Chilson on guitar and Dave Darling on drums can create, and the absence of a bass isn’t a factor. These two musicians are locked together in these inspired arrangements and both play superbly throughout the album. For me, half the fun of listening to this album is the interaction between guitar and drums. Without bass, the sound is naked and primitive, but so full of clarity and energy. On track3, “Tears On My Windshield” you can hear the band with a bass guitar, and it’s a whole different sound. It sounds like another band altogether, and maybe that’s the point. “Tears On My Windshield” is a great song, but it sounds like many other blues songs. With just guitar drums and vocals (and harp, of course), The Ten Foot Polecats have found their own sound and they do it very well.

Vocalist and harmonica player Jay Scheffer delivers the goods with his gravelly voice and commitment to the songs. While his harp lacks the tonal depth heard from a more virtuosic player, it serves to add another dimension to the final product, and an alternate instrument to feature during solo sections. Scheffer’s harp playing is showcased very well on “Scratch Ticket” (track 5).

As far as my favorite cuts, I have to admit that I love “Tears On My Windshield”, but I also really dug “Dryspell”, a song where you can just feel how much these guys love to play. “Squeeze” is another goodie, written by Scheffer and featuring some great guitar licks by Chilson. Another great original on this release is “So Good To Me”, which has a swampy groove and is a lament about lost love. I also really enjoyed their interpretation of RL Burnside’s “See What My Buddy Done”.

I really dug this album, and recommend it to all blues-lovers, especially if you like foot stomping down-home blues.

Reviewer Bruce Williams is seasoned Blues musician (Junior Wells, Lefty Dizz and The Chicago Fire, Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins, Mark Hannon Blues Band). He  learned the blues from some of Chicago’s masters and has shared the stage with legends such as Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, Sammy Lawhorn, Hound Dog Taylor and Jimmy Johnson. His band appears at clubs and festivals throughout the Midwest. He hosts a weekly radio program on WRLR FM Public Radio and produces music out of his home based Highland Lake Records Studio.  

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