Chuck Leavell – Back To The Woods (2012)

FrontCover1.jpgChuck Leavell pays homage to the early pioneers of blues piano including Leroy Carr, Little Brother Montgomery, Otis Span, Ray Charles and others. Guest appearances by Keith Richards, John Mayer, Danny Barnes and more.:

Pianist and ace session player Chuck Leavell’s many fans consider him to be a true master of his instrument; his fills and solos possess imagination, lightning-quick twists and turns, imaginative chord voicings, and a very physical attack. His detractors claim he plays far too many notes and plays them loudly, that he cannot be a backing or ensemble player because he always has to stand out. One has to ask this question of the latter group: if these criticisms are accurate, would he be sought out by the Allman Brothers, George Harrison, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and the Black Crowes (just to name a few)? Back to the Woods: A Tribute to the Pioneers of Blues Piano is a fine collection of 15 standards from the greats of the blues piano canon, with tunes by Leroy Carr, Little Brother Montgomery, Otis Spann, Memphis Slim, Charlie Spand, and Charlie Calhoun, among others.

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Leavell is backed by Chris Enghauser on upright bass and Louis Romanos on drums throughout, but there is a slew of well-known guests on the session to boot: Danny Barnes plays loads of guitar and banjo, Keith Richards and John Mayer each appear on a couple of tracks (both on Spann’s “Boots and Shoes”), and Randall Bramblett plays saxophone on a few more. Carr is obviously the muse here; five of his tunes are included in this mix, including “Mean Mistreater.” Other highlights include Barrelhouse Buck McFarland’s “I Got to Go Blues,” the title track authored by Spand, and the reimagined Skip James number “If You Haven’t Any Hay.” This is a spirited collection, played and recorded beautifully. If anything, perhaps it’s a bit too clean, but that’s a trifling. The set also includes song annotations by Leavell and a liner essay by blues historian Larry Cohn. (by Thom Jurek)

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Personnel:
Chris Enghauser (bass)
Chuck Leavell (piano, vocals)
Louis Romanos (drums, percussion)
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Danny Barnes (guitar on 04., 07., 13. + 14., banjo on 06., vocals on 13., tuba on 07. + 13.)
David Blackmon (violin on 08.)
Randall Bramblett (saxophone on 05., 10. + 11.)
Davis Causey (guitar on 04., 05., 10. + 11.)
Neal Fountain (guitar on 01., bass on 11.)
Col. Bruce Hampton (vocals on 08.)
John Mayer (guitar on 03. + 09.)
Tom Ryan (saxophone 0n 05. + 11.)
Keith Richards (guitar on 02. + 09.)
Candi Staton (vocals on 10. + 14.)

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Tracklist:
01. No Special Rider (Montgomery) 3.00
02. Evening Train (Carr) 4.10
03. Wish Me Well (Slim) 2.46
04. Low Down Dirty Dog (Carr) 4.24
05. Losing Hand (Calhoun) 3.46
06. Naptown Blues (Carr) 3.41
07. Back To the Woods (Spand) 5.22
08. I Got To Go Blues McFarland) 3.04
09. Boots And Shoes (Spann) 4.02
10. Mean Mistreater (Carr) 5.08
11. Southern Casey Jones (James) 3.39
12. If You Haven’t Any Hay (James) 2.50
13. Memphis Town (Carr) 3.46
14. The Blues Is All Wrong (Manning) 2.45
15. Vicksburg Blues (Montgomery) 3.21

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