by Craig Ruskey
Chuck Goering, better known as Barrelhouse Chuck, sports a sincere devotion to blues that began earlier than his straight-to-Chicago drive from his Florida home at age twenty-one. Once in the Windy City, he befriended Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, Blind John Davis, and many others who would become not only his teachers but his friends. The sixteen tracks on Prescription For The Blues deliver forty-five minutes of thundering piano blues and boogie without a trace of self-indulgence (the longest cut here clocks in at just over four minutes) .
Paying tribute to a varied cast, he dishes out a handful of Leroy Carr songs with "Barrelhouse Woman," "Straight Alky Blues," "My Own Lonesome Blues," and a driving version of "Mean Mistreater Mama" with a driving left hand that complements his deft right hand work. Erwin Helfer sits in for the piano duties for the title track as Chuck offers a soulful vocal with Little Brother Montgomery's phrasing, and on "Ain't Nobody's Business," Helfer takes piano again while Goering tackles the Farfisa organ keys. The duo comes together on "Nutty Boogie," an original piano duet with the pair flying across the ivories and of Chuck's other penned offerings, there's a pounding "Yamato Stomp," a short "Double D," and the shimmering "Rooster's Blues." Curtis Jones gets a nod with a fine cover of "Tin Pan Alley" and for "Sitting On Top Of The World," the ghost of Otis Spann hangs heavy. Two tributes to Sunnyland Slim come in "Going Back To Memphis" and "Johnson Machine Gun," especially powerful with drilling piano and solid vocals. "Corrine, Corrina" and an in-the-alley take of Floyd Jones' "Ain't Times Hard" fill out the set.
Vocally, Barrelhouse Chuck is more than capable with a pleasing style and a natural sense of phrasing, but it's his piano work that grips the listener. Without formal training he has become a master of the idiom and one who never overplays. This heartfelt work is a breath of fresh air in a field that at times seems obsessed with over-production, studio gimmicks, and gloss. Prescription For The Blues is simply some of the finest piano blues available with the spirit of Otis Spann close by.
This review is copyright © 2002 by Craig Ruskey
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