The Son Lewis Blues Band "Snake"

The Son Lewis Blues Band
Silk City Records

CD review by Roger-Z (08/21/06)
Appeared in More Sugar, November 2006, P. 12A

The Son Lewis Blues Band takes its cue from the blues revival of the mid-sixties -- most notably The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. No studio trickery here. Just real musicians blowing freely -- Son Lewis (lead vocals, guitar), Alan Camlet (drums), Jerry Fierro (harp, congas, vocals), Rich Downs (bass), John Pittas (keyboards), and special guests. This compilation of live and in-studio tracks distinguishes itself by the emphasis on rural, country blues. Agricultural references abound: "Fattening Frogs for Snakes," "Mean Old Mare," "One Little Monkey Don't Stop My Show," and the title tune, "Snake." Of course, instead of a thick Mississippi drawl, we get treated to suburban New Jerseyese. But that only adds to the power of the delivery.

The live tunes, recorded at the John Harms Theater in Englewood, New Jersey, The Great Notch Inn in Little Falls, New Jersey, and Max Daniels Saloon in West Orange, New Jersey capture the band at its finest. Interestingly enough, the album opens with a track featuring vocals by harpist Fierro, "Lollypop." The sexual innuendo on this jump-swing tune sets the tone for the rest of the album. "She's a hot loving woman, she loves me both night and day. Well I'm so scared my lollypop's gonna melt away." Fierro takes firm command of the band when he blows his hot, distorted, melodic lines. Son Lewis favors a more measured approach with a clean, dry, Stratocaster sound. They both deliver their solos as if deeply engrossed in a conversation. The rumba style, "Walking To My Baby," also features Fierro on lead vocals and once again captures the intensity of the band live.

The CD throws a fair number of acoustic numbers into the mix. "Jinx Blues" features excellent dobro slide and acoustic guitar playing by Son Lewis as well as less distorted, more acoustic sounding harp by Jerry Fierro. The groove proves overwhelming. Your feet won't stand a chance. Son Lewis also lays down an admirable cover of John Lee Hooker's Hobo Blues. His finger picking and intense vocals send a chill when evoking life and death on the road.

The boys made a wise decision by including so many live tracks. The slow "Malted Milk" provides a semi-serious look at the Blues. Son Lewis delivers killer vocals. "Malted milk, malted milk keep rushing to my head. But I got a funny, funny, feeling that I'm talking all out my head." "Fattening Frogs For Snakes" captures the band in full mid-tempo shuffle and features the electric piano sounds of John Pittas who tickles the keys with glee. "It took me a long time baby, to correct all my mistakes. Now I'm telling my friends I ain't fattening no more frogs for snakes." Not quite sure what that means. But it sure sounds good.

Let me make it plain as all the frogs, snakes, mares, and monkeys on this record. This band truly engages the audience. If you love the blues, buy this CD and grab a couple of cold ones. Then go see the band live.

2006 Roger-Z