Scotty Moore

The Mighty Handful, Vol. 1

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According to annotator Gail Pollock, the Mighty Handful owes its existence to a couple of Memphis "Legends" concerts featuring some of the veteran rock & roll musicians of the city, among them singer Billy Swan and saxophonist Boots Randolph. The shows inspired Scotty Moore to organize a band around Swan and Randolph for recording sessions. It included performers of a similar vintage, such as bassist Bob Moore and fiddler Buddy Spicher, and younger ones such as keyboardist Steve Shepherd. Scotty Moore himself did not participate as a musician, unfortunately, except for sitting in on the instrumental "bonus track" (in what sense it is a bonus track is hard to say) "There's Always Me," on which he does not solo. On this, the first of two collections, the band addresses a bunch of blues and R&B standards. The playing is excellent, naturally, and the arrangements largely support Swan as a vocalist and Randolph as the chief soloist. Randolph is as effective a player as he has been throughout his long career. Swan, who deserved to become a star long ago, sounds uncannily like Jerry Garcia, that is to say, a Jerry Garcia with a slightly better sense of pitch singing on the healthiest day of his life. Of course, as is usually the case with this sort of project, it probably would have made a better concert than a record. In a live setting, one could revel in the interplay between these old cats still maintaining their chops. On disc, one is forced to compare the tracks with other renditions of these familiar songs, and despite some interesting interpretations, among them a sultry "I Put a Spell on You" with none of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' frantic posturing, they come up short. Still, it sounds like everybody had a good time in Moore's studio.

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