Some days, there's no better pick-me-up than a simple basic blues disc – and, to prove it, the recent release by Monster Mike Welch, Just Like It Is (VizzTone), has been fulfilling that particular need in my house lately.
A slick set of electrified twelve-bar that on more than one occasion sounds redolent of sixties British bloozmanship (check the Cream-y ooohs in album opener "She Makes Time"), the disc is a bracing showcase for the onetime blues prodigy's respectful, yet energetic, guitarwork. If no new ground gets broken on this disc, a good time's still had by all.
As a vocalist, Welch isn't strong enough to pull off any old blues cliché, but on his best songs, he puts enough of a modern spin on his stories to make 'em convincing. We may not quite accept it when he starts going on about black cat bones (as he does in a cover of Willie Dixon's classic "I've Got A Strange Feeling"), but when he sings about wanting to move to another country 'cause he can't find a job in this one, the sentiment's all too credible.
Where Monster Mike comes across most convincing, though, are in his simple love songs. In "My Baby Loves Me," "A Perfect World" and "I'm Not A Stupid Man," Welch's crooning voice is beautifully suited to his man/boyish declarations of love. "She sez that I'm a good man," he declares, "And I would never make my baby lie." And for the space of the song, at least, we know he means what he's saying.
The disc's big draw, however, lies in Welch's guitar-playing, which is both tidy (I hear hints of Steve Cropper concision in many of his solos) and dynamic. Some of the high spots on this disc: the stuttery guitar lines on "My Baby Loves Me," the more stately guitar & piano solos in "Love That Burns," the rollicking work in "Move Along," plus the disc's one instrumental, "Sticky Whisket," which even manages to sneak a small piece of surf tremolo into the mix.
I'd wager this stuff sounds even more raucous in a smoky blues club, but listening to it on the CD player in bed late at night, it definitely gets the job done.
"In a perfect world," Welch sings in the CD's title-inspiring song, "life would be just like it is." Listening to the man effortlessly swoop over keyboardist Anthony Geraci's sprightly fingering, you can almost see how he came up with that seemingly unbelievable conceit.