Your crusty chronicler is an individual who does his own thing. Still, when Examiner asked for support for their new “List” format, it was nigh impossible not to be open-minded about it. So, with that spirit of unity and teamwork in mind, your rockin’ reviewer presents this series—“Track by Track” in which we review certain select CDs literally “track by track”.
In this edition we check out The Charles Burton Blues Band’s most recent release Sweet Potato Pie. Led by Charles Burton (guitar and vocals), The Charles Burton Blues Band is a team of talented tunesmiths that also includes Arnold Ludvig (bass) and Asmus Jensen (drums). This 13-track album of all Burton compositions opens on “Shake It!” This uptempo blues rocker contains elements reminiscent of the once blues-inspired Led Zeppelin. In fact, Burton admits that “it’s pretty obvious the music was inspired by my reverence for Led Zeppelin”. It’s fleshed out by the introduction of Karl Cabbage on harmonica.
(Read through the list to discover more about the music.)
The second selection is “Double Up”. Adam Koefoed sits in on bass on this shuffle track. Burton, too, comments on the shuffle: “I love the ‘flat tire’ or reverse shuffle drum beat in the intro and outro. I like the way the flat tire beat comes back in and signals the end of the song. “
“Drivin’ Home” and “New York Jump”
The blues rock bit “Drivin’ Home” is reminiscent of Freddy King material. It includes a guest appearance by San Diego-based singer/guitarist Chill Boy who adds his vocals and lead guitar on this track. Burton says: “I was excited when he agreed to add some vocals and guitar. He is a ‘no compromise’ type of guy, which is what I love about his guitar playing.”
“New York Jump” is the first instrumental here. It’s a swing-influenced, jazz-tinged track. It seems reminiscent of something by Miles Davis. Indeed, Burton confirms that “the intro and outro sections are a take-off on Miles Davis’ ‘Milestones’.”
“Goin’ to Memphis” and “Crackdown”
“Goin’ to Memphis” Koefoed encores on bass multi-genre influenced song. Burton states: “I was going for a sort of a southern soul vibe—something you’d feel like clapping your hands to.” Koefoed remains to flesh out the fast-paced shuffle cut “Crackdown” which is a vehicle for guitar solos and has “an Albert Collins feel”.
”Livin’ Without You (Blues for Simon)”
”Livin’ Without You (Blues for Simon)” is a sad, slower ballad with an ingredient of hope within. Burton uses a “chord progression from days gone by.” This is a tribute tune written specifically for the late son of a man who helped Burton and company out while on tour in Norway.
“Sweet Potato Pie”
The title track, “Sweet Potato Pie” is a New Orleans style song that was inspired by sweet potato pie that Burton had in Memphis. Apparently it was so good he said:”I knew I had to work sweet potato pie into a song”. It features Burton’s co-producer Richard Livoni on maracas and Koefoed returns once more.
“New Boogie” is a single chord instrumental track which serves to let the various musicians amply demonstrate their tuneful talents. Burton confirmed this: “We decided to make this a showpiece for each player.” Indeed, this piece truly sounds like it would really work well when performed at a live gig.
”Used to Love That Woman”
”Used to Love That Woman” is a Chicago style blues standard. Burton confesses that this song was inspired by his second ex. Cabbage encores on harmonica thus giving the cut what Burton agrees is “an old-school blues feeling.” This song has a relaxed, greasy feeling to it which I like.”
”Brown Paper Bag”
”Brown Paper Bag” is a bit of a call-and-response shuffle that Burton works with his guitar and vocals. Here Burton gets to do some slide work. “I don’t play as much slide as I’d like to and now I’ll have to in order to play this song live. The lyrics are based around the ‘Halleluiah I’m A Bum’ philosophy: I don’t have any money and if I did have any, I’d blow it.”
“Your Number” is a tracked contains electric blues elements in what sounds like an old school, simple two-beat blues bit. Burton, in fact, states: “I had been wanting to do a two-beat blues and I came up with this kind of standard chord progression. Two chords.” Cabbage returns on harmonica on this song inspired by the 1980s L.A. blues band the Red Devils.
“Drop a Dime”
The album’s end-note is “Drop a Dime”. It’s something that would work well on a motion picture soundtrack and contains some welcome minor jazz chords. Burton confirms: “This song started from the film noir, big city crime sound of the E minor major seventh chord. The lyrics were inspired by Mickey Rourke’s ‘Mary’ character in the movie Sin City as well as Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade character in The Maltese Falcon. I wanted to get that film noir feeling that a big jazz band can get—but with a trio.” Rick Nash sits in on bass.
This disc has many musically interesting moments as the band often experiments with elements from other genres as well as an occasional untraditional story element within the songs. Listeners are warned that frequent exposure to The Charles Burton Blues Band’s most recent release Sweet Potato Pie just may urge listeners to “Shake It!”
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.