"Twist It, Babe!"
Fish Tail 005
A musician who performs acoustic country blues with little or no accompaniment has no place to hide. If the voice isnít true, if the guitar licks donít ring with the authority that comes only from being immersed in the traditions of the genre, listeners will know, immediately and implicitly.
No such fate awaits Catfish Keith, whose fifth Fish Tail CD, "Twist It, Babe!," is an engaging mix of blues, old-time jazz and Caribbean island rhythms, performed solo or with Marty Christensenís stand-up bass in stellar support. Catfish is in command of the material from the opening licks of Skip Jamesí "What Fun Weíre Having in Illinois" to Blind Lemon Jeffersonís "One Kind Favor" to Bo Carterís hilarious "Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me" and the jumping swing of the Quintet du Hot Club du Franceís "Back in Nagasaki."
Some songs, including "Biscuits" (worth the purchase price alone!) and Trixie Smithís "Jack, Iím Mellow" appeared on Catfish Keithís 1984 vinyl debut, Catfish Blues, on Kicking Mule, and appear now on CD in newly recorded renditions.
Itís a pleasingly diverse set (although it loses steam in the latter third of the recording during some slower material) that eschews clichéd old stand-bys for songs that are distinctive and unfamiliar. Who else can pull off material by Jesse Mae Hemphill, then cover Baron Lee and the Blue Rhythm Band (a í30s big band), then answer with "Brownskin Gal," a traditional Caribbean folk song? Who else would even try? All in all, it makes for an impressive record thatís easy to listen to over and over.
ó Bryan Powell