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Music Review: Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets – She Knocks Me Out

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Given his dedication, and his long-standing partnership with the late Sam Meyers, it had to happen – Anson Funderburgh has become an elder statesman of the blues. No longer an acolyte, he’s the guy young, hungry guitar slingers look up to.

Back in 1982, though, Funderburgh was leading an early incarnation of his Rockets through their sophomore release. And the results, here re-issued on HepCat records, show that he was already a fully-developed and amazingly accomplished guitarist ‘way back when …

Rockets of the era included singer and harmonicist Darrell Nulisch, who’s since assumed vocal duties for James Cotton (whose own singing voice, sadly, is but a distant memory), with Doug Rynack, Jackie Newhouse, and Freddie Pharaoh handling piano, bass, and drums respectively. All provide a firm yet flexible foundation for Funderburgh’s fine fretwork.

Funderburgh grew up with the blues in Plano, Texas, and learned his lessons well; at an age when most guitarists are trying to show how many notes they can squeeze into a solo, he takes a calm, measured approach, with each note carefully placed for maximum effect, the songs all the stronger for his restrained approach.

The playlist consists primarily of blues chestnuts, though the title cut, courtesy of Nulisch, is pure rock ‘n’ roll; from there it’s tunes from the likes of Wolf (“Howlin’ For My Darling”), Lazy Lester (“A Word About Women”), and Willie Dixon (“You Know My Love”). Nulisch offers fine harmonica on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Your Funeral and My Trial,” and Funderburgh does his best Magic Sam impression on the latter’s “Look What’cha Done.” Other covers include Tampa Red’s “Love Me With A Feeling,” Slim Harpo’s “Gonna Keep What I Got,” and Little Milton’s “The Blues Seem To Follow Me” – no big surprises, but the material is strong and performances are all solid. Rynack contributes “Two For Pete,” a short burst of boogie woogie that acts as a musical interlude.

There are no new tracks on this reissue, although the observant will notice that expanded liner notes correct two tracks wrongly attributed the first time around. Sound, though, is richer and deeper, and packaging is exemplary.

Funderburgh would continue to grow following this release, his soon-to-come partnership with the late Sam Meyers leading to the Rockets’ worldwide success. This is a fine example of his early work, and stands up remarkably well on its own. Recommended!

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