The Sirens Records SR-5004 (www.thesirensrecords.com)
by Jeff Calvin
Windy City 88er Chuck Goering salutes his piano heroes - many of whom he knew personally - on his second release for The Sirens. Living in Chicago in the 80's, the man known as Barrelhouse Chuck worked extensively with Sunnyland Slim, Pinetop Perkins, Lafayette Leake, and Little Brother Montgomery. Another obvious touchstone here is urban blues pioneer Leroy Carr, author of four of this set's 16 songs.
The steady, subtle groove of Howlin' Wolf's "Sitting on Top of the World" lets Goering demonstrate his strengths right off the bat: a thorough understanding of the blues form, an unassuming yet forceful voice (Charlie Musslewhite would be a ballpark comparison), a strong and steady left hand, and a tendency to sprinkle songs with clean, clever upper-register trills and flourishes. His solemn reading of Carr's "My Own Lonesome Blues" is smooth and sweet, the kind of performance Charles Brown fans will lap up. On Montgomery's "Prescription for the Blues," labelmate Erwin Helfer takes over on piano as Goering pleads the lyrics with a voice both delicate and demanding. An instrumental version of "Going Back to Memphis" has a bit of Muddy Waters-style phrasing in its melodic approach (Goering is a "Mudhead," having following the great man around the south in the 70's). He mixes things up on a beautifully played cover of "Ain't Nobody's Business," dressing up the melody and solos with Farfisa organ, buoyed by Helfer's sublime piano accompaniment.
The closing tunes, the bouncing "Yamato Stomp" and the ballad "Rooster's Blues," prove Goering can keep up with his idols songwriting-wise, whetting the appetite for an album full of Barrelhouse Chuck originals. Keep an eye - and two ears - on this guy.
This review is copyright © 2003 by Jeff Calvin & Blues Revue
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