Just yesterday KuvVer Records dropped a nifty little EP on us, one with the living blues icon Boo Davis performing some trusty blues covers. Chicago Blues Covers puts in a single release a collection of tunes all recorded one afternoon in 2018, and released as singles over the next year. This plainly titled EP delivers songs that in most bluesman’s hands might be a little tired and pedestrian, but this is Boo Boo Davis we’re talking about here, a character as colorful as Howlin’ Wolf which all comes out in his authentic delivery. Hell, almost as if to underscore his kinship with that original blues giant, most of these seven songs like “Little Red Rooster” were made famous by the former Chester Arthur Burnett. Davis is backed by the ElectroBluesSociety (or should I say, the ElectroBluesSociety is backed by Davis?), a tidy little unit made up of Jan Mittendorp on guitar and Jasper Mortier and drums and bass. With Boo Boo handling the singing and the blues harp, this music needs nothing else. You can hear Davis’ echoed and looped in the background but otherwise, this is pretty much like it would be heard in a nightclub. And maybe you heard these songs many times before, but not in the way Davis & Company plays/slays ‘em. “Evil” is set apart by stomp on the two and four and Davis’ singing the song like a man possessed. On “Smokestack Lightnin’,” Boo Boo howls and moans with the fervor of a man fifty years younger. Davis takes his time getting started on “Back Door Man” to allow Mittendorp to noodle around with some biting lines, as the track is drenched in electronically-induced some psychedelic haze. “How Many More Years” sounds deadlier with Davis’ harmonica altered to resemble an organ, and Mittendorp’s slide sets the vintage feeling for Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom.” The band shuffles through “Tell Me” as Davis squeals on that harmonica with mid-century authenticity. Then again, everything Boo Boo Davis plays is authentic. And with the sympathetic backing of ElectroBluesSociety, Chicago Blues Covers is faithful in fanning the blues flame in the way that only Davis can do it.
David Philips & Abel Boquera have been playing together in one form or another for more than a decade, but they never made a record together, and even the just-released The Duo Sessions only became a record perhaps as an afterthought. Usually, the recordings of songs beget the videos for them; here, the videos came first and then the idea to make a record out of the performances caught on camera in Boquera’s studio came afterwards. A David Philips record that includes another musician is a very rare event; none of the prior seven ones covered in this space had anyone else playing on them. So it may be a revelation to some that Philips plays well with others, and this singer-songwriter guitar whiz certainly meshes with his Fender Rhodes-playing friend.
The first two tunes come from Philips’ then-latest album Get Along, and this drum-less version of “Another Day” isn’t really missing anything because the beat is still intact. Boquera’s electric piano and Philips’s acoustic guitar blend so well, at times they sound as one. The funky folk-jazz song “My Gravity” (video above) similarly has plenty of propulsion without the formal percussion. Boquera’s swinging solo only enhances the jazz element of the song even further. The final track is Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” and Davis Philips soulful croon is a natural for this number. For good measure, he tosses in a nifty aside from his acoustic six -string during the instrumental break.
At a running time just past 11 minutes, it’s barely an EP much less an LP, but it’s a pocket-sized collection of a couple of really good musicians and pals having fun with a trio of fine songs. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
It might be mid-March but Winter is coming…the new musical concoction from David Philips, that is. The British ex-pat singer-songwriter performed his familiar ritual of holing himself up in his home studio and emerged with a fresh batch of recorded originals. Winter, recorded over much of this still-lingering cold season, is expected to drop in late March/early April through Black And Tan Records, but the folks over at Black and Tan have already provided a preview of what to expect. “Home” is the advance single from Philips’ newest creation, now available in digital form, and streamable above. What is immediately noticeable from followers of Philips is that he went ‘full band’ this time, not unlike 2015’s If I Had Wings but all instrumentation here and the rest of the album is handled by Philips alone and he remains firmly on the folk reservation this time. Actually, Winter could be thought of as a proper follow-up to his debut record. Still, it’s a bit of a jolt to hear his twelve-string acoustic guitar soon joined by harmonica, bass, drums, backing vocals and more guitars. What isn’t different is a voice with the warm soulfulness of Aaron Neville and a bright melody that sticks with you long after the last chord rings out. David Philips might change his tactics from time to time but the overall strategy of delivering quality, hand-made folk music never wavers.