Johnnie Bassett & The Blues Insurgents

Party My Blues Away

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The years 1994-1999 have seen guitarist/singer Johnnie Bassett become the top blues act from Detroit, and he's bucking for the Midwest, if not all the land. Bassett's leaner-than-B.B. guitar musings and delightfully soulful singing voice, along with help from many talented friends, have catapulted the ex-Fortune Records sessionman into as formidable a blues musician as there is out there today. This is Bassett's fifth CD, done at the Tempermill Studio in Ferndale, MI, and it sounds like it was as much of a joy to make as it is to listen to. Substantial help comes from the Codish family: son Chris is the organist on this date, while father Bob wrote or co-wrote (with Chris) half the disc. Those songs include the sly, non-committal apathy of "I'll Get Around to You," a mortal lock "Money Back Guarantee," and the rather typical "Big Boss Woman." All are legitimate hits. Other goodies include the downtrodden, self-doubting "Wonderin' Blues" with a cameo from founding Insurgent Bill Heid on piano. It's centered around a slinky, low-key tinkling at which Heid is an expert. "Johnnie's Boogaloo" is a straight-ahead groove mongrel, about as good a dance tune as you'll find, while Ron Levy's "Send You Thru 2000" is a shuffle with a "now or never" proposal, featuring saxophonist Keith Kaminski, who is very good on this and other places throughout this set. This group does more than simply jump, jive, and wail on these 11 tracks; they also swing and shuffle with the best. The horn parts are always well crafted. Drummer R.J. Spangler is a judicious leader deserving much credit for Bassett's success, rhythmically and otherwise. The whole band just sounds like they're having a ball making music with their friends. And live in performance, as many can attest, they're just as irresistible and contagious, a fine example of what you can do when you mix equal parts jazz and blues. Highly recommended.

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