Mark T. Small review…January 23, 2014…

MARK T. SMALL

SMOKIN’ BLUES

LEAD FOOT MUSIC

STEP IT UP AND GO–SELL MY MONKEY–MY DADDY WAS A JOCKEY–GOIN’ DOWN SLOW–BUCK RAG–WALKIN’ THE DOG–MOANIN’ AT MIDNIGHT–LAMP TRIMMED AND BURNING–EARLY IN THE MORNING–RAILROAD BLUES–STONE PONY BLUES–AMERICA MEDLEY

Mark T. Small has been playing guitar for more than forty years.  He began as a youth by playing old-time fiddle tunes on a flattop guitar in the style of Doc Watson, later graduating to blues after listening to the likes of Johnny Winter and Roy Buchanan.  After 2000, Mark combined his bluegrass and blues knowledge and constructed a one-man acoustic-themed show, allowing him to play varying styles with only a few guitar changes.  His latest CD, “Smokin’ Blues,” incorporates his love of bluegrass flat-picking with his piano-like fingerpicking blues style, which works well with his choice of material.

A long-time student of the Delta masters, he is adept at incorporating their styles into his songs.  We loved the stop-time groove of “Sell My Monkey,” a Tampa Red tune that Mark adapts to play the piano parts on his guitar.  He uses echo-effect reverb to enhance the “endless boogie” of John Lee Hooker’s “My Daddy Was A Jockey,” while he is joined by Shor’ty Billups, former drummer for Rufus Thomas, on a spirited, bluesy read of “Walkin’ The Dog.”

Mark’s speedy playing that he learned as a young man are showcased, too.  Rev. Gary Davis’ “Buck Rag” has Mark playing the bass, harmony, and melody lines all at once.  And, in the grand tradition of Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, Mark closes the set with a fingerpicked tribute to their mentor, Blind Arthur Blake.  It is called “America Medley,” and incorporates “America The Beautiful,” “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

As good as these were, we had two favorites.  His versions  of Elmore James’ “Early In The Morning” and Sam McGee’s “Railroad Blues” both utilize Mark’s penchant for fluid, speedy runs to keep the groove going.

“Smokin’ Blues” is the album that Mark T. Small’s fans have been clamoring for.  It showcases his guitar and vocal prowess in an intimate, solo setting, and allows his bluegrass and blues abilities to intermingle on some of his favorite tunes from the blues and R & B canon.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

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