Dicky James and the Blue Flames hail from Terre Haute, Indiana. James’ real name is Richard Wagster, but Dicky James is obviously a better blues name. By any name, though, on Hard Rain Dicky James and the Blues Flames deliver delightful urban contemporary blues. Nine of its songs are original, and there are two covers, a gritty take on B.B. King’s “Rock Me” and a rocking take on “Born Under A Bad Sign.”
The nine originals show real talent and diversity. “Real Good Blues” is a blues-rocker in praise of the joy the blues can bring. “Hard Rain” benefits from a solid wall of sound delivered by The Blue Flames with some powerful harp soaring over a funky guitar beat.
“Bulldog Talkin’,” quite a long story at six-and-a-half minutes long, is probably my favorite song on the album. I love its sly humor, as Dicky explains how his girl comes “shakin’ her fingers, pokin’ that big head out at me.”
“Reap What You Sow” is a very traditional blues with great interaction between a hot lead guitar and a soaring harp. The message is the classic one, that the person you help today may be the person you’ll need tomorrow. “Low Down Dirty Dog Blues” features fantastic Hammond organ from Johnny “Lightning Bug” Beeson, which sets the perfect tone for James’ vocals on this blues lament.
Every great blues CD needs a really fantastic instrumental, and on this one that number is “Ice House Shuffle.” These guys are real musicians and they all get to show their stuff on this song. The tight horn section gives “Game On” that great New Orleans sort of sound, and James’ lyrics and vocals suit that style well.
“Special to Me” is something entirely different and unexpected. It is a mix of reggae and a bit of rap, and definitely not blues. It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the CD, yet the more I hear it, the more I like it. “We Git To Play” is another song about how great it is to be a blues musician. It rocks, and it will make you laugh and move your feet in good fun.
Hidden track “Roll the Credits” offers some tasty instrumental music before James then reads the album’s credits, which is followed with some more tasty instrumental music. It’s a cute little extra bit for the careful listener, or the one who doesn’t get around to stopping the CD after the last-listed song.
Over all, this is an entertaining album with enough variety to keep things interesting. James is a talented singer and songwriter, and his band is tight and professional. This is an example of some of the really interesting blues coming out of the Midwest these days.