Heritage Blues Orchestra: And Still I Rise

Album cover art for upc 820236101001
Catalog: RM1010
Format: CD

* 1 Clarksdale Moan - 4:13 * 2 C-Line Woman - 3:19 * 3 Big-Legged Woman - 4:02 * 4 Catfish Blues - 4:50 * 5 Go Down Hannah - 2:32 * 6 Get Right Church - 3:41 * 7 Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down - 4:16 * 8 Going Uptown - 5:01 * 9 In the Morning - 4:35 * 10 Levee Camp Holler - 1:59 * 11 Chilly Jordan - 2:44 * 12 Hard Times - 7:38

The word "heritage" in this N.Y.C.-based blues collective's name is technically correct since, with one exception, they stick to traditional fare. However, anyone expecting a dusty, acoustic, backporch approach will be alarmed by the rollicking, horn-enhanced, multi-layered sound these folks lay down. A four-piece horn section augments the basic five-piece, bringing spicy New Orleans jazz strains to the festivities. Bill Sims, Jr. and Junior Mack handle the slide guitars but it's Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith's kinetic drumming and the zippy, imaginative yet organic rearrangements that keep this fresh and crisp. Smith pushes the beat for a hyperactive Muddy Waters' "Catfish Blues" that features Vincent Bucher's frantic Little Walter-styled electric harp sparring with the brass section and nearly stealing the show. The tunes may go back decades in their original form but the way this group arranges them brings new life to old sentiments that are, like blues music in general, universal. The styles ping-pong from the raw, a cappella prison gang grunts of "Go Down Hannah" to the slide guitar-fueled gospel stomp swamp version of "Get Right Church" and Son House's Delta blues classic "Clarksdale Moan." Female vocalist Chaney Sims (Bill's daughter) is underutilized but pulls out some stunning Nina Simone moves on the percussion/voice/tuba arrangement of "C-Line Woman," one of the album's starkest and most riveting moments. Alternately, the four horns add bulk, bringing a distinct jazz tone with arrangements that are far more complex than just adding brass flavor. That's especially true on the closing seven-minute reworking of the standard "Hard Times," as the song shifts from its acoustic blues first half to a funeral brass midsection that gradually gives way to a rousing jazz/blues climax. It ends this inventive and inspiring debut on a memorable note and leaves you wondering how they will follow it up. ~ Hal Horowitz, Rovi

Price: $19.98