Dennis Gruenling review…July 21, 2016…..

DENNIS GRUENLING

FEATURING DOUG DEMING

AND THE JEWEL TONES

READY OR NOT

BACKBENDER/VIZZTONE RECORDS  VT-BBR-712

KNOCKIN’ MY KNEES–MISSING PERSON–READY OR NOT–SIMMER DOWN–LITTLE SUGAR–IF YOU WANNA ROCK–READY TO BURN–ROCKIN’ WITH THE REV–WON’T YOU COME BACK–OPEN THE DOOR–THINK TWICE–GIVE ME BACK MY HEART–COUNT CHROMATIC

Harmonica master Dennis Gruenling is back with a strong, brand-new collection of all-original tunes, this one entitled “Ready Or Not,” and it, indeed, marks a new direction in his illustrious career.  Always known for his, well, “Badass” harmonica chops, for this set, for the very first time, he takes the vocals  mic as well!  For us, we wonder why he waited so long.  He has the perfect voice for these Fifties-inspired, jump-blues cuts that recall the heyday of Sam Phillips at Sun, Art Rupe at Specialty, and Ernie Young and J. D. Miller down in the swamp at Excello.

Also along for this amped-up blues journey are Doug Deming And The Jewel Tones, with Doug on guitar, Andrew Gohman on bass, and Michael  Bram on drums.  The party starts with the furious-paced rocker, “On My Knees,” an ode to those girls that know just how to “turn a saint into a sinner,” fueled by Doug’s bristling guitar and Dennis’  big ol’ chromatic work.  Echo-effect vocals over a shot of the Hook’s “endless boogie” drives “Missing Person,” while Dave Keyes’ piano is the perfect “spice” to another tune about a special  girl who may be small in stature, but “stands out in a crowd,” “Little Sugar.”

“Don’t play with fire unless you’re Ready To Burn” sounds as if it were a long-lost Excello nugget, and Doug’s Berry-fied licks help Dennis persuade a lover to “open your heart up, baby, and Open The Door!”

We had two favorites, too.  A tom-tom percussion volley leads the way for a tune we should all perhaps sometimes heed.  “Simmer Down” reminds us that, in any situation, it’s best not to be “the first to jump in and first to drown,” but to back off and assess things before losing your cool.   And, in the good-time spirit of Louis Jordan, “If You Wanna Rock, You Got To Have That Roll”—“bank-roll,”  that is!

Dennis Gruenling continues to up the ante on why he is one of the most dynamic harp players on today’s scene.  “Ready Or Not” is just begging you to give it a listen and put on your dancin’ shoes!!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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