Friday, February 06, 2009

A Little Blues, Irish Style

Rab McCullough

Belfast Blues

Review by Jonathan Widran

We normally think of the blues as homegrown from the American South, but no culture knows the feelings like the Irish, which makes veteran blues rocker McCullough an interesting study in the way the genre transcends cultures. He's shared stages with Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, and Small Faces, and returned to Memphis in 2000 to compete in the Blues Foundation International Blues Challenge; he came in third, but this powerhouse of a recording sounds like the makings of first place. Kind of skimpy at seven tracks and only 31 minutes, the recording still captures various exciting facets of his chosen genre. The brooding opening number, "Louisiana Woman," inexplicably finds his voice distant and distorted, but perhaps the mystery is intentional; his raspy voice combines with simple but powerful chord changes that keep getting faster. "Walkin' Back to You" is a fiery boogie-woogie-driven blues jam, with McCullough singing urgently as his blistering lines sizzle underneath. "Ain't Gonna Be Your Fool" is laid-back cool in the Eric Clapton tradition, while "Mistreatin' Me" is a pointed emotional jam fueled by the heavy organ harmonies of Mike Lattrell. A lot of what passes for blues these days comes in shimmering production packages, but this hits a cut above by being real, rougher, and raw.

1 Louisiana Woman
2 Walkin' Back to You
3 Ain't Gonna Be Your Fool
4 Trouble
5 Mistreatin' Me
6 Shame on You
7 Further Up the Line