If you wanted to be in on the ground floor of Marion James, you would have needed to do that quite some time ago. Or Muddy waters, or Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter. Well, you get the idea. Not so with Andy Poxon. This young freshman at Towson University is a wunderkind, and much more. He saved his gigging money, paid for and produced Red Roots, and then EllerSoul Records saw what it was and licensed it. You read that right. As Todd Ellsworth of EllerSoul points out, a tough task for anyone, let alone a teen ager. He’s a college student now, and, if you want to follow a great career wherever it goes, this album is where you start.
His stated influences range from Hank Williams, through blues masters like Magic Sam, and Johnny “Guitar” Watson, to the jazz playing of Charlie Christian. One can hear a few more, like SRV and Johnny Winter. Andy first picked up a guitar at age 9, that being his mom’s acoustic guitar, and set to it — with AC/DC. He knew pronto, that wasn’t going to work. So he asked his parents for an electric guitar. Can’t you just see it? At 9 years of age, he was that perceptive, and with a voice that augments well his amazing guitar skills, that awareness has served him well.
The album opens and closes with rockabilly numbers, “Hottest Thing in Town”, and “C’mon Pretty Baby”, showing off one of Andy’s breadth of tastes and abilities. With a very talented band he met at various blues jams in the Baltimore area, drummer Mike O’Donnell and bass man Russ Wasson, emerges a trio with a gutsy, deep and broad pool to draw on.
Songs like “Quitters Never Lose” is a melodic tune with a slight country feel to it, sort of like Hank Willams on Red Bull decides to plug in. “When” is an acoustic guitar-based number that tells the story of pain quite well with a soft edge; “Raining In” has a tinge of Mark Knopfler on the solo, and is a tune that builds when the solo starts, and then just drops at the end, the Ray Tilkens supplied organ so strong with the guitar. Very cool.
“I want You So Bad” and “I Need My Girl” are songs that evoke the Memphis soul sound, a sixties era feel to them, and both are very danceable with that special someone; “I’ll Sing the Blues” almost screamed Robin Trower (think Bridge of Sighs type sound) and Texas style blues jump out in “No Love, I Hate Being Alone,” and “Is There Anything I Can Do?,” an awesome slow ballad with a smoldering and scorching solo. Remember when you listen that Andy wrote the songs, paid for and produced this album.
This is foundational folks. Andy is studying jazz at Towson, so his future might be headed elsewhere than the blues. It doesn’t matter. If you want to follow an artist that will be exceptional no matter what he puts his hand to, then make sure you start with Red Roots.
Featured artists: Ray Tilkens (keyboards, background vocals, rhythm guitar; Zach Sweeney (rhythm guitar); and Carol Ann Drescher (background vocals).