It’s been a few years since I reviewed Mikey Junior’s “South Philly Blues Party Live” disc, and since that time, he released the well received “Blues in the Barn Volume 1,” resurrected the Bucks County Blues Festival, both of which I’ve attended, and produced CDs for several other local blues bands. To say he’s a busy guy is an understatement! I recently caught up with him at our Bands by the Beach Concert series in West End. Aside from everything else he’s doing, is this new collection of songs recorded at Silo Studios in the magical “Blues Barn,” just across the Delaware river in Finesville, New Jersey, which released on August 3rd.
Long time band members Matt Daniels on guitar, Jimmy “Peabody” Prichard on bass, and Scott Stump on drums join him along with Filthy Rich a.k.a. Richard McPherson on guitar and producer Andy Kravitz sitting in on drums for the final track, “Mystery Train.” This well-chosen collection of eleven tunes includes one original by Matt and Mikey, “Rooster Strut.” The opening number, “Don’t Go No Further,” was written by the man I consider to be one of the greatest blues tunesmiths as well as a fine bass player, Willie Dixon. The band doesn’t stray far from the original, but with Mikey’s vocals and superb harp playing, they give it a fresh sound. Next up, Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Dirty Pool” begins with a sweet guitar intro and Mikey’s plaintive vocals on this blues ballad which likens a cheating woman with a deceiving pool player. “Kill the Ice Cream Man,” another blues ballad, is given a smoldering treatment by the band, and if I was driving that ice cream truck, I wouldn’t go near their neighborhood! The Robert Johnson classic, “Come On In My Kitchen,” is propelled by Matt’s slide playing and with Scott on the brushes, Jimmy’s laid back bass line, and Filthy’s rhythm guitar; it has a very authentic feel. With “Ships Out On The Ocean,” the band provides Mikey with the perfect vehicle for his powerful vocals and harp playing, punctuated with some great guitar fills between the verses. As a direct musical descendant of Little Walter Jacobs, it’s only fitting that Mikey covers his tune “Up The Line.” It’s a most enjoyable tribute to one of the greats who left us much too soon. “Rooster Strut” is the lone original, but feels like it could have come from this era. A guitar instrumental, it lets two masters of their instruments show us what they can do when left to their own devices for four minutes of six-string improvisation! Mikey certainly knows his musical roots and picking John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson’s “Early In The Morning” was a wise choice. The band creates a reverent version of the song providing an authentic sound coupled with Mikey’s harp and vocals, a winning combination. T-Bone Walker’s “Evening” features Mikey’s longing vocals, and a harp that sounds like a train pulling out of the station highlights this sad ode to a man whose woman done left him. Another little Walter tune “Last Night,” features vocals by Mikey that make the listener feel like “he lost the best friend he ever had.” The final track “Mystery Train,” ends the disc in upbeat fashion despite the lyrics. With the great funky beat of Andy’s drums, coupled with some tasty guitar licks courtesy of Matt, and Mikey’s harmonic freight train, it is a great take on a song that’s been covered from everyone from Elvis to Bon Jovi. This is another great collection of songs from Mikey Junior who is fast becoming one of the best interpreters of blues in the business.
You can find it on https://music.apple.com/us/artist/mikey-junior/206129253