Kid Ramos

Greasy Kid Stuff

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For his fourth solo release, and third on the Evidence label, the Fabulous Thunderbirds' guitarist, Kid Ramos, once again calls in some high-profile blues friends for assistance. Instead of last album's guitarists and jump blues horns, this time Ramos sticks with harpists/vocalists to provide the momentum on a set of relatively stripped-down, greasy blues. He's also the only guitarist on the sessions, which makes this a spotlight for his picking as well as his bandleading abilities. Harmonica aces Rick Estrin (Little Charlie & the Nightcats), Paul de Lay, Lynwood Slim, Johnny Dyer, James Harman (who only plays on one of his three tracks and sings on the others), and Charlie Musselwhite, along with Rod Piazza, all contribute. The leadoff title cut, an instrumental that sounds like it was left over from his last horn-infused West Coast album, is the one exception. The sessions were cut in two days, which gives them a raw, not quite primal edge that adds to the gritty nature of the recording. Although the original intent was to perform exclusively covers, nearly all the harp-playing guests brought in their own original material. Just a handful of interpretations remain: Willie Dixon's "I Don't Care Who Knows"; an obscure Lightnin' Slim track, "Mean Ol' Lonesome Train"; an old uncredited Excello side, "Rich Man's Woman"; and Bobby Blue Bland's "Hold Me Tenderly." It sure sounds like this was one big part, as each guest plays with a relaxed gusto, whipping off harp lines with nonchalant intensity. Ramos' tough yet flexible guitar fills the holes and takes the lead just often enough so the listener knows whose album it is. Otherwise he's content to leave the majority of the spotlight to his high-profile guests, who turn in sterling performances. While few of their original tunes sound drastically different from standard blues fare, the ensemble playing and electrified atmosphere adds a palpable excitement to the tracks. The various vocals also infuse a diverse feel to the album, with Ramos' guitar and presence being the thread that holds it together. The closing "Harmonica Hangover" features Estrin and Musselwhite on what seems to be an improvised duet, with both harp men discussing the proceedings and other guests, as well as trading licks on an appropriately upbeat shuffle. It's a fitting finale to an album that works because of the loosely structured environment that Ramos provides, meshed with the remarkable talents of his talented contributors.

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