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.