Gumbo Blues & LemonAce - by chefjimi

Posted on 8/18/2010 by Chefjimi

Mitch Woods: Gumbo Blues:

Those who know Mitch Woods can tell you the man is easily one of the finest Boogie-Woogie piano players on this, or any planet. Always knowing when to hold, stop and boogie, Mitch displays all moves on his latest Vizz-Tone release 'Gumbo Blues'.

Gumbo Blues is Mitch's interpretation of the music of forgotten New Orleans blues-shouter, Smiley Lewis. Smiley has often been referred to as 'The Unluckiest man in New Orleans' because of his history of recording a song and then have it done by another singer and THAT version becomes a hit. Examples of this are his original versions of such great songs as 'I Hear You Knocking' (Dave Edmonds) , 'One Night' (Elvis) and Fats Domino's monster hit 'Blue Monday'. But Smiley was a true blues shouter – often appearing with shout master, Big Joe Turner doing battle on the stage for supremacy for the night.

On Gumbo Blues, Mitch creates an authentic sounding revival of Smiley's music. Working with some of the very best musicians that New Orleans has to offer including members of Allen Toussaint's Band, Amadee Castenell, and Brian “Breeze” Cayolle two studly saxophonists (also played on tour with Elvis Costello); John Fohl, guitarist for Dr. John, and funky as you get bassist Cornell Williams from Jon Cleary's band. Last but not least Mitch brought on Herbert Hardesty who was Fats Domino's tenor player for over 60 years, now that's the real deal.

Covering such well-known songs as, Big Mamou, Li'l Liza Jane, I Hear You Knockin' and Shame, Shame, Shame.What Mitch gives us here is more than a historical look at the music, but he works his own feelings and perspectives into them, giving us the added bonus of some really good rockin' music to listen and dance to. Mitch re-worked some of the original keys so that he could provide us with some of his best vocals ever, especially on Bumpity-Bump' which Big Joe Turner did as 'Blues Jumped a Rabbit'.

With New Orleans as his adopted home, Mitch has again proven his love for the music of the Big Easy, as he has done before with his prior release 'Big Easy Boogie'. Mitch's approach to these labors of love are to look backward, staying close to the roots, while trying to get as many of the original musicians to play with him and keep the music alive.

If you want to learn about the roots of Rock & Roll, Funk, then, yes indeedie pick up Gumbo Blues, cos if this music don't move ya, then Jack you're dead !

Cathy Lemons & Johnny Ace: Lemonace

Take a blues bassist from NYC, who has played with such talents as John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, Charlie Musselwhite and Victoria Spivey, then add a Texas raised blues singer who honed her chops with Anson Funderberg and Darrell Nulisch. Put them together in San Francisco and let it grow.

That's veteran bassist Johnny Ace and soul-stirring vocalist Cathy Lemons, whose latest release for the VizzTone label group is called 'LemonAce'. This release finds them teamed up with an all star line-up, including scorching guitarist Kid Anderson, funk-laden axeman Tommy Castro, harp master Paul Oscher, piano extraordinaire David Maxwell and slide-guitar wizard Ron Thompson, along with regular band members Pierre Le Carre (guitar) and Artie 'Stix' Chavez (drums). Not for nothing, but you don't just 'get' a line-up like this – all these guys would not be here if they did not believe in the product and the artists.

An 11 track release, LemonAce opens with 'Brand New Day' and it sets the stage with a funky soul-tinged dual vocal cut that recalls Ike and Tina at their chitlin' circuit best. Props to Pierre and Stix for just making it a non-stop funk house party. This vibe and dedication to 'the sound' is what puts this release at the top of my house party music chart. Vaguely reminiscent of Specter's Wall of Sound with guitars from what I remember of the early years of Psychedelia and Blues (think Butterfield meets Moby Grape) and it's just too hot not to listen to.

What sets these two apart is that they have conveyed their live chemistry to this release. Seriously folks, what we hear is as close to hanging out with them in San Fran and chillin', while playing music with friends. Delaney & Bonnie, Prima & Smith I'm not overstating here. I don't think even they realize how good they sound together.

The Release party was at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco and this photo from it will hopefully show you the passion and excitement that these two superb professionals bring to the Blues table.

Get hip to the trip, pick up a Lemonace now ! Or as Johnny would say 'RIDE'.

Both of these fine releases have made the Sirius/XM 74 Picks to Click listing - congrats - and are available from the Vizz-Tone Label Group. Visit them at

Until the next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease

If you enjoyed this serving of the Blues, you might want to check out my other articles, as I roam around seeking out the Blues wherever they are happening.

all photos used by permission
courtesy of Leslie K. Joseph, Dee Wallace.

copyright © 2010 – bluesuitspeaks, all rights reserved

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