There are modern day revivals taking place in many music genres today. Soul, folk, roots, Americana, and yes, the blues are all being revived by talented artists the world over. Imagine then, our pleasant surprise when we received a copy of the new album, Kicking Up the Dust, by UK singer and harmonica player, Mat Walklate and Sicilian guitarist/vocalist, Paolo Fuschi.
Europe has long been a hotbed of American blues music. Scores of artists have toured across the pond for decades and left an indelible mark on the music scene there. The British Invasion of some 50 years ago was made up of groups, influenced by the blues, making it their own, and then returning it to the US. These two artists, busily touring Europe, are keeping it there, but they’re spreading the gospel of the 1950s Chicago blues style in a unique and delightful way.
Its a simple duo, with magnificent talent, and this independent release hearkens to the golden age of electric Chicago blues. The opening track, a sweet cover of Little Milton’s, “Ain’t No Big Deal On You,” grabbed our attention at the outset. You could not only hear, but feel, the classic vibe of tube amplifiers and vintage microphones.
All but one of the 10 tracks are covers of songs from those glory days. Their take on the St. Louis Jimmy Oden tune, “Goin’ Down Slow,” is spot on, as is the slow drag of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Black Cat Bone,” which has many times been covered in a harder, blues rock style.
These two compliment each other like peanut butter and jelly, with Walklate making use of diatonic, chromatic and tremolo harps. Fuschi keeps a steady, solid rhythm on the guitar, and when he breaks into short lead riffs, they’re crisp and authentic. Both artists provide excellent vocals as well.
They do rub some funk on the one original track, “Don’t You Know Me,” producing an early rockabilly sound that leads the listener from Chicago, straight down to Memphis. Something else, very unique, to this collection is their subtle addition of another genre into the otherwise quintessential blues. With a tip of the hat to the Afro-Caribbean populace of Manchester, they mix a hint of Ska into these tracks. Its something that takes a moment to catch, the nuance is so nicely done.
All in all, this is an impressive collection. The entire offering is recorded in a way that sounds as if the duo is on stage in your favorite club. If we had two wishes regarding Kicking Up the Dust, they would be another original song or two, and perhaps some vocal harmonies from Walklate and Fuschi.
If you’re a fan of early Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and the rest of the Chess crew, you’re going to feel right at home with this one.
Kicking Up the Dust
Release Date: April 15th, 2016
Running Time: 46:01