Given the number of overproduced
albums on the market, it is always refreshing to find a release that
goes for quality playing and sound production and eschews the popular
tendency to over-indulgence. In his seventh release, Catfish Keith has
moved deeper into country blues, keeping it simple in production but
complex on the frets.
The disc opens with the rollicking
"I Just Can’t Help It," featuring some tasty tickling of the
ivories by Radoslav Larkovic. Larkovic also lends his ample talent to
"Funky Butt," a song that sounds like it belongs in a New
Orleans speakeasy. Later in the proceedings, Catfish invites Larkovic
to do some improvisation on "Sweet Potatoes." All three cuts
have that informal roadhouse feel where someone might walk through just
to grab a beer.
Catfish puts himself stage center
with "Butt Dance," a slide showcase that captures even more
of that down-home Louisiana feel. Yet he saves his best slide runs for
"Doggone My Bad Luck Soul," a song that is as haunting as
it is inspirational, and he makes his strings sing their mournful tune.
The title song, a Catfish Keith
original, fits as neatly into this set as any of the songs he covers
from the past hundred years of blues history. His singing is soulful
and sweet as hay in the springtime, and the playing is unpretentious,
like we ought to be back on the porch sipping on some cold ones because
this is just a warm-up for the show later on.
Even songs such as "Catfish
Blues" and "Buffalo Gals" work beyond expectations. Keith
performs with the conviction of one who fully lives the songs and always
feels like the real thing. Even the weaker cuts, "Champagne Charlie"
and "Canned Heat," show enough feeling to be entertaining
but merely less memorable than the other songs in the set.
Catfish Keith has been nominated
for Best Acoustic Blues Album at the Handy Awards several times in the
’90s. I suspect that this disc may well contend for that honor — and
this time he may just hook one.
— John Koetzner