Barrellhouse Chuck And The All Star Blues Band
The Sirens Records SR-5104
James "Skyy Dobro" Walker for the Blues Blowtorch Society
In the city of Chicago there are two endangered species: Chicago Blues and
Piano Blues. A tourist arriving at a “blooz bar” is never going to find a
piano soloist. They’re likely to hear Rock and maybe Blues Rock instead of
Chicago Blues. Instead of a lead-sharing, grooving ensemble, they’ll
probably hear just one ponderous guitar solo after another.
Enter Barrelhouse Chuck Goering, endangered but still deadly at both of
those increasing rarities. While steadily gigging around Chicago, Chuck has
released his second album of 2006. Got My Eyes On You is from May and June
studio sessions as opposed to 25 Years of Chicago Blues Piano Volume 2 which
mined Goering’s voluminous vaults of golden studio sessions from the last 25
Born in Ohio in 1958, Barrelhouse Chuck was living in Florida when he heard
his first Muddy Waters record with Otis Spann on piano. Realizing he needed
to immerse himself in blues piano, he decided to go directly to the source.
In 1979 he drove 24 hours straight from Florida to Chicago and went directly
to B.L.U.E.S on Halsted specifically to see Sunnyland Slim. Goering spent
the next 10 years studying with Sunnyland, whom Chuck calls “the
great-granddaddy of all the blues piano players.” Barrelhouse Chuck is a
living legacy. One of the few Chicago blues pianists to have studied under
Sunnyland Slim, Pinetop Perkins, Lafayette Leake and Little Brother
Montgomery, Barrelhouse Chuck draws on this distinguished lineage to create
a blues, boogie-woogie and barrelhouse piano style that places him among
blues piano’s contemporary elite.
On Got My Eyes On You Barrelhouse Chuck leads an all-star blues band which
includes premier harp player and Fabulous Thunderbird’s member Kim Wilson
and long-time Muddy Waters rhythm section members Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on
drums and Calvin “Fuzz” Jones on bass. On guitars are Joel Foy and Eddie
Taylor, Jr. This band smokes as Chuck pays tribute to his mentors and heroes
Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, Floyd Jones, Detroit Jr., Memphis
Slim, Big Moose Walker, Smokey Smothers, Eddie Taylor, and Muddy Waters.
Setting the tone for the entire set to come, the album opens by celebrating
memories of Floyd Jones with an instrumental, “Floyd’s Blues.” Chuck plays
the song’s opening notes on piano sounding like Elmore James hitting the
first guitar notes to “Dust My Broom.” Immediately “Big Eyes” slaps some
skin, Kim Wilson honks some sweet harp, the others join in, and the customer
gets a big smile listening to some impeccable Chicago Blues. Jones gets one
more nod on cut 7, “School Days” featuring Chuck rocking in two handed
fashion on the ivories.
Track 2, “Call My Job,” honors the late Emery “Detroit Jr.” Williams
signature song co-written with Al Perkins. Goering secured “Detroit’s”
companion, Ella Evans, for a both poignant and humorous voice dub and the
song’s beginning and end as the protagonist’s wife trying to wake him for
work then reporting he’s been fired. Chuck handles the vocals in his always
irresistible blues tenor-to-baritone range.
The title track is up third with a nod to Goering’s friend Big Smokey
Smothers. Studio multi- tracking enables Barrelhouse to give us both his
acoustic piano and Italian Farsisa organ. Says Goering, “I am the only guy
in the blues playing a Farfisa. Everybody likes their Hammond, and God bless
them all, but the Farfisa, to me - first of all it is more portable - it's
got a real nasty, greasy, dirty tone. It is not jazzy.”
Of the 13 tracks, only 2 are originals: “Red River Rumba” by Joel Foy and
“Iza Mae” by Barrelhouse Chuck. Among the covers, some are standout classics
and some forgotten gems. Most honor Albert “Sunnyland Slim” Luandrew who
played on the originals of many of these songs.
Other highlights find Chuck instantly grabbing ears on opening organ on “The
Bright Sounds of Big Moose” from Johnny “Big Moose” Walker, and the
beautiful “Mama You Don't Mean Me No Good” with a sensitive vocals by
Goering channeling the unique voice of author Eurreal “Little Brother”
Montgomery and featuring guest piano from Eiko Izumi-Gallwas.
Chicago Blues may be endangered, but the real danger would be missing
Barrelhouse Chuck’s music which continues the Chicago blues piano tradition
in stellar fashion.
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