Rockwell Avenue Blues Band review…April 20, 2018…..

ROCKWELL AVENUE BLUES BAND

BACK TO CHICAGO

DELMARK RECORDS  DE 854

BLUES FOR HARD TIMES–BOOGIE IN THE RAIN–THAT FACE–FREE TO LOVE AGAIN–LONESOME FLIGHT–CHARIOT GATE–WE BELIEVE–STRANGER BLUES–FOR A REASON–RICH MAN–HEY BIG BILL–LOVE POLICE–BACK TO CHICAGO–HAVE YOU EVER TOLD YOURSELF A LIE–DREAM

For the uninitiated, the Delmark Riverside Studio is located on North Rockwell Avenue.  Ken Saydak, now a Colorado resident, shaped his forty-plus year career as a keyboard whiz, vocalist, and composer in the Windy City, playing on albums under his own name, as well as playing  on more than sixty albums for many other Chicago legends.  It was his idea to return to Chi-town and Riverside in October of 2017, and have a “reunion” of sorts,  tagging four other great bluesmen with which Ken shares a long history.  The aptly-named Rockwell Avenue Blues Band features Ken on keys and vocals, Tad Robinson on vocals and harp, Steve Freund on guitar and vocals, Marty Binder on drums, and Harlan Terson, “that blues person,” on bass.  These five giants convened to record “Back To Chicago,” fifteen cuts of traditional-sounding primo Chicago blues  from the guys who know it best.

Ken and Tad go way back, to the days of the band named Big Shoulders, taken from the poem by Carl Sandburg.  The original cuts were written in whole or in part by most of the band members.  The set begins with Tad on vocals for the minor-key ode to today’s economic struggles,  “Blues For Hard Times, but we got love to see us through.”  Steve is on vocal with Tad on harp for the endless boogie choogle of the Hooker-esque groove of “Boogie In The Rain,” and shows up a bit later on the shout-out to Brother Ray on Bobby Robinson’s  “Stranger Blues.”

The fellows take a cool look at our own mortality with our  favorites.   First up is a deep, slow-burning, slide-heavy blues dealing with the death of one’s father, “Lonesome Flight,” with Steve on guitar, and Tad on harp.  Ken’s original cut is the opposite, “Chariot Gate,” a lively shuffle , where  he proclaims, “my bag’s not packed, I ain’t ready to go!”  Ken then closes the set with his reverential, poignant, “Dream.”

Fans, this is authentic Chicago blues the way it was meant to be played and heard.  The five players in the Rockwell Avenue Blues Band have decades of service in the blues, and legions of fans all over the world.  Guys, how about another trip “Back To Chicago” real soon, ok?  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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