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Music Review: Black, White and the Blues by Mark T. Small

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Grab a jug of lightnin’, your old guitar, and meander out to the front porch as the sun goes down and the day cools off.  It’s time for a little music to wash the day off your back.

Pick a little John Lee Hooker or some Lightnin’ Hopkins. Stomp your foot to some Willie Dixon and some Mississippi Fred McDowell, or get adventurous and try out some Robert Johnson. That’s the way Mark T. Small’s new album Blacks, Whites & The Blues makes you feel.

Whether he’s flat-picking country blues on “Old Gray Mare,” or a bottleneck slide like “61 Highway,” or channeling the Mississippi Delta Blues of Fred McDowell’s “A Few More Lines,” Small will move you to a whole new love of American music.  He also performs Chicago Blues, most notably the Roy Hawkins tune “The Thrill Is Gone” (made famous by B.B. King), done here in a slow, soulful interpretation that makes it his own. From the hills to the cities, from the rural backwaters to the urban alleys, this is roots music played by a man who has studied it, gotten lost in it, and at times seemed to fall down on his knees and prayed to it.

This collection of fourteen songs covers every style and era from the late 1800s through the early ‘50s. Whether he is playing a 1947 Martin or a newer D-18, his National Steel or a Fender Telecaster, there somehow seems to be more here than just a catalog or a sampler; as if by magic it has a cohesive feel of a concept album.

This is one man with his various guitars, a love of music, and an intensity in delivering that to an audience that nears a religious furor. Small’s virtuosity on each instrument will astound you and the soul he puts into delivering these tunes will keep you enthralled.

Originally from New England, Small first got into music as a teenager playing old fiddle tunes on the guitar with surprising effect. This lead to playing Bulegrass music with a gig in the the Brown County Band. Around this same time, Small picked up the harmonica and started listening to blues player like Junior Wells and Charlie Musselwhite. Then one day he picked up the electric guitar and started playing some Johnny Winters, some Roy Buchanan; as the story goes, the rest is history. He played in and formed blues bands, and even played with some of his heroes. Around the year 2000, he started gravitating back to his acoustic roots, much to the joy of fans everywhere.

Small is supporting the release of Blacks, Whites & The Blues with a series of showcase performances at clubs in Scottsdale, Arizona and other southwest venues as well as his former stomping ground in the New England area. Blacks, Whites & the Blues is available as of September 20 on CD, and for MP3 download at all the usual places and Small’s website.

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About The Dirty Lowdown

I was born in Pomona, California at a very young age. I had a pretty normal childhood…or I was a pretty normal child hood if mom is telling the story. I was a paperboy and washed cars. I was a soda fountain jock-jerk and a manic mechanic but my first real job was as a labor organizer in a maternity ward. Then, because of the misjudgment of a judge I spent nearly 10 years in the service of our country mostly on KP duty. Our country sure turns out a lot of dirty dishes. I am a past master at pots and pans. They eventually recognized my real talent and let me wander around some very unfriendly places carrying a big radio that didn’t work. Along the way I took up the bass guitar, jotting down stories, electronic engineering and earned a degree in advanced criminal activities. I spent most of my adult life, if you can call it that, working in the I.T. industry, which I was particularly suited for since we worked in rooms with no windows. On and off I taught in colleges, universities and reform schools as a student teacher… I like smog, traffic, kinky people, car trouble, noisy neighbors, and crowded seedy bars where I have been known to quote Raymond Chandler as pickup lines. I have always been a voracious reader, everything from the classics, to popular fiction, history to science but I have a special place in my heart for crime fiction, especially hard-boiled detective fiction and noir. I write a book and music review blog for all genres at The Dirty Lowdown. And another dedicated to Crime Fiction and all things Noir called Crimeways. It’s named after the magazine that appeared in the Kenneth Fearing classic, The Big Clock. There I write scholarly reviews of the classic hard boiled, noir and crime fiction books from the 20's through today. Mostly I drool over the salacious pictures on the covers. I also write for Tecnorati/BlogCritics where i am part of a sinister cabal of superior writers.