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Music Review: Joe Filisko & Eric Noden – I.C. Special

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A lonesome train harmonica pulling out of the station opens this latest offering from Filisko & Noden, two Chicagoans who were born about 50 or 60 years too late. Their music belongs in the 1920s and very early 1930s, when country blues was in its heyday.

I.C. Special, their latest offering which hit the store shelves late this past September, serves up 15 scrumptious cuts of phenomenal country blues, capping out at nearly 62 minutes.

Except they’re not all country, or prewar, blues. As traveling bluesmen did in those days, Filisko and Noden stay true to history.   They play a little of everything that was popular in the day: Delta blues, Texas blues, country, and swing. They even slip into some jazzy riffs, as best as the musicians of the day could with a guitar, harmonica, and a good pair of leather shoes and a footboard to keep the beat. The fourth cut, “Me & Sonny,” would not sound out of place with a Tex-Mex accordion added.

Hambone raises its head in the eighth selection, “Girl O Mine.” If you’re not familiar with Hambone, it’s a style of syncopation, with or more often without  instruments, that involves a lot of slapping of various body parts and sometimes a little dancing thrown in. The next cut, “Made Me Lonesome,” is a slow, dreamy blues number which conjures up a hot summer day, a man on his back with one leg cocked over the other, chewing on a long weed that he just plucked from the field he’s lying in, singing about a lost love. This cut reeks of authenticity, so much so that you can hear the river rolling by and see the butterflies flitting around the field. When that sad harmonica gives us a short solo around the three-minute mark, it perfects the scene.

“Busy Man," track number 10 on this disc, tells the story that the title implies. What the man is busy at will surprise you. Again, Filisko’s harp brings in the perfect counterpoint to Noden’s lazy, bluesy guitar. At about the four-minute mark, you’d swear Filisko’s harmonica is talking to you. Noden switches guitars, acoustic to resonator, but not as often as Filisko switches harmonicas, both of these able musicians giving us some lessons in country blues.

You can’t go wrong with this truly enjoyable CD. And if you ever get a chance to see either or both of these guys live, don’t miss it. They don’t stray out of the Midwest often, particularly the Chicago area, but check their respective websites. You’re guaranteed not a good, but a great time.

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About Lou Novacheck