When it comes to blues music, I know what I like but I have little idea about all the different strands that have brought us to the modern blues scene, so, in enthusing about this fine recording, I’m afraid I can’t give blues nuts the lineage of what I’m hearing – I just know it sounds great. Franck Goldwasser has been playing blues in the San Francisco area for something like thirty years and in that time has been seen alongside a bewildering array of players. In recent years his best known work has probably been with the Mannish Boys, who have toured and recorded pretty extensively. A solo album from Franck Goldwasser is a pretty rare outing in the midst of all his collaborations, so this eleven track session recorded in The Netherlands with a bunch of old mates is a bit of an event, really.
With the songs divided evenly between Goldwasser originals and contributions from old heroes and colleagues, this is predominantly electric blues of the highest quality. These guys play with real fire and, better still, with a strong sense of direction, maintaining a taut thread to the music that holds your attention right through to the final bar. Franck’s major collaborator on this album is drummer/producer Boyd Small, and it’s his explosively sharp drumming that really rouses the blood. Between this and Bart Kamp’s beefy bass playing, there is a strong foundation for all the other players to build on. Franck’s electric guitar playing is great, always going somewhere interesting whilst remaining disciplined and tight. They play as a proper band, not just as a background to some show-off lead instrumentalist, and the interplay between them all is very fine – there is a strong sense that they’re all signed up to the common purpose of communicating the spirit of the blues.
There are occasional changes of voice as Franck picks up his acoustic guitar and Gene Taylor’s piano comes into play more, and these acoustic blues sound just as sharp and committed as the monster sound made by the full electric band. Actually the track I’m coming back to most is the elegiac acoustic blues that Franck wrote for the late Phillip Walker – the guitar playing is truly wonderful, extracting notes from his instrument in a manner that seems implausible. Elsewhere maybe the cover of Aaron Walker’s Tell Me What’s The Reason is as good an illustration as any of how good Franck Goldwasser and his buddies are: An uptempo blues set to a standard love gone bad blues lyric will have your dancing in your seat as the fast walking rhythm provides a cool backdrop to some gloriously fluid lead guitar work. Great stuff all round, then – properly entertaining blues.
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