CHUCK LEAVELL

BACK TO THE WOODS

2012-05-31

While probably best known for his long stints with the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton, pianist Chuck Leavell has played with such a wide swath of blues and rock giants that it’s almost true to say that if a band or musician is well known he has played with them. This, his fifth solo release, features Leavell and a host of guests including, amongst others, Randall Bramblett, Keith Richards (Evening Train and Boots and Shoes), John Mayer (Wish Me Well), Candi Staton (The Blues Is All Wrong), Danny Barnes and Col. Bruce Hampton, working their way through the tunes of piano blues legends like Leroy Carr, Otis Spann, Skip James, Memphis Slim and Little Brother Montgomery. Since so many blues tunes focus on guitar or harmonica as the lead instrument, it can be easy to overlook the role played by these early pianists in the evolution of the blues from the fields to the clubs where their pounding keys could be heard over the din of the crowd. Here, Leavell gets a prominent place in the mix but this is far from a piano solo disc as the other musicians add plenty of wood to the fire. Highlights include Leavell’s syncopated lead on "Naptown Blues", the bright and sprightly solo that follows the rootsy guitar work on the title track, the juke joint urgency of "I Got to Go Blues", the rollicking boogie woogie of "Southern Casey Jones" and "Memphis Town", the gospel tinge of "The Blues is All Wrong", the interplay between Leavell and Richards on "Boots and Shoes" where their long time sharing stages shines through and the low down blues of "Mean Mistreater". A great lesson in blues history and a fine listen as well. Smitty

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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