Bare Knuckle

Guitar Shorty

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Bare Knuckle Review

by Thom Jurek

Bare Knuckle is the first Guitar Shorty album to appear in four years. He won the W.C. Handy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for We the People in 2006. That record, which showcased his rugged, showy style of electric blues in a variety of song settings -- not the least of which were his originals, which had a socio-political bent -- sent blues fans to the record stores in droves. This set picks up where We the People left off, with the killer “Please Mr. President,” which pleads for Mr. Obama to “lay some stimulus on me.” There is no irony in the lyric. The man’s serious as cancer and it shows in his biting leads, his shouting vocal, and the everyman tone in his delivery. Produced by longtime bassist Wyzard, Shorty is backed here by keyboardist Alex Alessandroni, and drummer Harold Seay (with the exception of two tracks where Alvino Bennet, his former skin man contributes). There are alternating rhythm guitarists and a guest appearance by Keb' Mo’ playing acoustic rhythm guitar on the aforementioned cut. Other fare here is diverse, such as the funky reading of James C. Johnson’s “Too Hard to Love You” with flipped-out-sounding psychedelic organ and electric piano sounds. There’s also the reggae-blues(!) of “Slow Burn," written by Wyzard, Vida Simon, and Jon Tiven. It sounds twisted, but Shorty’s vocals are soulful, and his lead guitar stings against the bubbling rhythm section, so it works. The other two Shorty-penned numbers are the straight-ahead shuffle on the good-time “Texas Women,” and the rumbling Chicago-styled “Too Late,” which contains some of his most emotive lead work on the set. The album closes on “Temporary Man,” an updated, growling, Delta-esque roadhouse rumble, written by Dennis Jones. Guitar Shorty's live show is never captured on record and that’s a shame, but his records have their own wild and woolly charm, and Bare Knuckle is another example of what he does best after 50 years in the blues biz.

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