Steve Ferguson / Steve Ferguson & the Midwest Creole Ensemble

Jack Salmon & Derby Sauce

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When guitarist Steve Ferguson left NRBQ in the early '70s, the name still meant New Rhythm & Blues Quartet, and the name of his own group, an ever-shifting agglomeration called the Midwest Creole Ensemble, is similarly instructive. On his own, however, Ferguson shows little of the oddball eclecticism of his old chums, preferring instead to deliver a solid if somewhat derivative brand of R&B. Seemingly still wearing the influence of his 1991 collaboration with Chuck Berry's piano player, Johnnie Johnson, Johnnie B. Bad, most of Jack Salmon & Derby Sauce has a laid-back roadhouse vibe, as if it were recorded by a band at their usual haunt in front of an audience of friends to whom they have little to prove. That gives the album a nicely intimate quality, but unfortunately, it also makes the proceedings a bit dull at times. This kind of R&B is at its best when the musicians are in their lean-and-hungry mode, but tracks like "You Don't Like Your Monster" meander where they should burn. The inclusion of a Rolling Stones-like cover of the Merseybeats' "I Stand Accused" (NRBQ's Louisville, KY, roots were in a mid-'60s band also called the Merseybeats) is a nice touch, though.

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