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© 2001-2014
Barrelhouse Chuck
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CD Review
Combo Classics
Barrelhouse Chuck
© 2010 Viola Records
By Justin O'Brien, Living Blues

Barrelhouse Chuck Blues CD Cover Art

Despite the romantic image of the blues piano player seated at an upright or grand, the reality is that many of the masters from whom Barrelhouse Chuck learned--blues men such as Sunnyland Slim, Moose Walker, Detroit Jr., and Jimmy Walker--played some form of compact instrument that could be hauled to gigs. “Combo” in the title refers to such a compact traveling “combo” organ and this set makes good use of Chuck's collection of Farfisa, Lowry, R.M.I, Vox and Rheem organs and of his amazing mastery of them.

While at least half the tracks here are recycled from various of Chuck's many previous self-produced CDs, they work quite comfortably together here under the “combo” theme. Nearly every track features a different lineup, although Billy Flynn, standout guitarist and fellow Grammy-nominee for the “Cadillac Records” movie soundtrack, appears on several. The two of them nail the Big Moose Walker/Earl Hooker sound on Wah Wah Blues, and the Hooker tribute Chuckabilly, which provides Flynn a showcase for his remarkable Hooker-like wah-wah and slide guitar. Eddie Taylor Jr. guests on The Bright Sounds of Big Moose, contributing perfectly elegant guitar leads.

On the Hooker composition Hot and Heavy, Chuck gets a hot and heavy, full-blast furnace sound which is fully supported by fine Swedish guitarist Jonas Goransson, who also plays on the lovely instrumental, Pacific Blue.

Billy Flynn and Chuck go toe to toe, playing in tandem on the classic Ventures number, Walk Don't Run. And the set is topped off by Boogie For Winwood with Chuck on Farfisa dueling with his early mentor Jim McKaba on B3 in a way-too-short thrilling workout.

Guitarist Nick Moss guests on two tracks, as does Perry Weber. Vocalists, in addition to Chuck, include Moss, Lynwood Slim, Perry Weber and Bethany Thomas.

Some may miss Barrelhouse Chuck's customary hammered piano triplets and thunderous cascading piano glissandos ŕ la Sunnyland Slim, but on these performances he joyously educes a wide range of tonal qualities from the various organs that amply demonstrates why he is becoming a first-call keyboardist on tour and in the studios.