AND THE MIGHTY MEN
FRIEND LIKE ME
OUT OF THE PAST MUSIC OOTP 007
ANOTHER FRIEND LIKE ME–ABERDEEN, MISSISSIPPI BLUES–ELDER GREEN IS GONE–OH LORD, SEARCH MY HEART–LITTLE SADIE–ROUSTABOUT–THIS OLD HAMMER–VIOLA LEE BLUES–ME AND MY UNCLE–PRETTY FLAMINGO
Texan Steve Howell is not only a top-tier fingerpicking wizard and over-the-top vocalist, he’s also a formidable historian regarding the pre-WWII masters that traveled and recorded throughout the South. On his latest release, he takes ten of these bluesmen’s songs and puts his own indelible stamp upon them. “Friend Like Me” also features his core backing band of Mighty Men, namely Chris Michaels on electric guitar, Dave Hoffpauir on drums, and Jason Weinhamer on bass.
Steve grew up in a time where the song and its message were the most important things, and he and the Mighty Men make sure this is what the listener hears as well. Check out the chugging beat of one of Bukka White’s classics, the tale of “those Aberdeen, Mississippi, women” who’ll “buy my gasoline on my way to New Orleans!” This one has a strong country-blues feel with fine electric guitar throughout. Steve gives a great read on Charley Patton’s ode to a religious man who’s “gone ramblin,” “Elder Green Is Gone down to New Orleans!” An adaptation of a 19th century narrative written for African claw hammer banjo is the eerie, echo-laden “Roustabout,” and its tales of “young women who led me astray!” Steve closes the set with a more contemporary tune, originally a hit for Manfred Mann, featuring Spanish and tremolo guitar from Michael, the wistful “Pretty Flamingo.”
Favorites abounded, too. What would a true troubadour’s set be without a little murder to spice things up a bit? Check out the story of “Little Sadie,” shot by her lover, who was sentenced to “41 days, 41 nights, and 41 years” for the crime. “Me And My Uncle,” a staple of Grateful Dead shows for years, deals with illicit gold and “shooting my uncle and leaving him by the side of the road.” And, the other “Dead song” is from Noah Lewis of Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers, playfully done by Steve herein, “Viola Lee Blues.” At the total opposite end of the spectrum is Steve’s prayer for salvation during troubled times, a pleading, “Oh Lord, Search My Heart, so I’ll know right from wrong,” from the pen of Rev. Gary Davis.
Steve Howell refers to the music he loves as the “root of the True Vine.” As one listens to “Friend Like Me,” one can easily see how this music of the American South would influence blues, and give birth to rock and roll. This one is highly recommended listening! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.