Randy Chortkoff loves the blues. So much so that he decided to start his own label to record and produce blues music. The Delta Groove Music Label became a reality during 2004. He then formed his own blues band and named them The Mannish Boys. The group is unique in that there is a rotating cast of musicians which changes from album to album.That Represent Man was their and the label's debut album, which was issued during 2004.
The label now has a stable of artists and The Mannish Boys have just released their fifth studio album titled Shake For Me.
The name of the label, Delta Groove, is a fitting description of their sound. They definitely play the blues and the roots can be traced back to the Louisiana Delta but the sound also has a California sheen. The music contains little of the sparseness of the early Delta Blues but rather is full with impeccable production. It is blues with a California groove. It is also expertly played and a fine listen.
The band for this release is a large and varied group. Finis Tasby and Bobby Jones are double vocalists, Kirk Fletcher and Frank Goldwasser handle the lead, rhythm, and slide guitar chores, William Campbell plays the electric and upright bass, Jimi Bott handles the percussion, and group leader Chortkoff wails on the harmonica. They are joined by a large number of guests; the most prolific of which is Andy Kaplin who plays piano on twelve of the sixteen tracks.
I prefer them when they are in full up-tempo mode. It is foot stomping blues music with a beat. “Too Tired” kicks of the album with an almost big band sound with a blues guitar up front and brass in support. Their medley of Bo Diddley’s “Mona” and Johnny Otis’ “Willie and The Hand Jive” is probably closer to a rhythm & blues sound but it is a lot of fun.
“Half Ain’t Been Told” is about as pure blues as they get as Bobby Jones” vocal is supported only by Kaplin’s piano. “Last Night” uses the harmonica as the lead instrument courtesy of guest musician Rod Piazza.
There are a number of other strong performances. The old Ray Charles tune “Hey Now” receives a smooth instrumental performance with brass flourishes which provide the foundation for Jones’ gritty vocal. The Lowell Fulson composition “Reconsider Baby” also receives a smooth blues treatment with nice piano runs by Kaplin. “The Bullet” is the lone instrumental and while it veers from a traditional blues piece it provides a good vehicle for Fletcher to demonstrate his guitar chops.
The Mannish Boys may not have produced a totally traditional blues album but they have produced an excellent modern blues album. The fact that this was a labor of love comes across and helps to make it an enjoyable addition to The American Blues legacy.