If a band has the word "stompers" in its name, one can usually assume that there is some type of 1920s/1930s influence involved -- and in the case of John Skillman's Barb City Stompers, there is indeed a strong '20s/'30s influence. Illinois clarinetist Skillman specializes in jazz of the pre-bebop variety, and there isn't a trace of bop to be found on DeKalb Blues. This 66-minute CD was recorded in 2009, but musically, Skillman's inspiration comes from the types of jazz that were popular during Prohibition and the Great Depression. And while Dixieland is part of the equation on DeKalb Blues, it would be a mistake to think of this album as strictly Dixieland -- actually, most of the performances fall into the classic jazz/early swing category. What is classic jazz? It's the jazz that came before the swing era (roughly 1935-1945) but after Dixieland; the music that Fats Waller, the Mound City Blue Blowers, James P. Johnson, Fletcher Henderson, and Joe Venuti (just to give a handful of examples) were playing in the late '20s/early '30s was classic jazz, which was essentially an early form of swing. And throughout the album, Skillman and his Barb City Stompers (trombonist Roy Rubinstein, guitarist Larry Rutan, bassist Robert Hintzsche, and drummer Aaron Puckett) are adamantly committed to a pre-Charlie Parker aesthetic. Nothing groundbreaking occurs, but the performances are consistently enjoyable whether Skillman is embracing "My Old Kentucky Home," "Yes Sir! That's My Baby," Fats Waller's "Sweet Sue," or George Gershwin's "Lady Be Good." Although Skillman isn't a major name on the Dixieland/classic jazz circuit, DeKalb Blues demonstrates that his playing is certainly worth getting to know.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson