|Simply titled My Life, the new studio album from Milwaukee institution, Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, celebrates 20 years as one of the nation’s hardest working road band. The quartet of blues veterans, led by Raven, have played every tavern, gin joint and cool club in the Mid-West and Florida and enjoyed just about most of them.
Their eighth album is a compilation of original songs from all four studio sessions remixed or re-recorded as a new version with a new lineup. The 16 tracks feature performances from Cadillac Pete Rahn, Madison Slim, Benny Rickun, Big Al Groth, Mickey Larson, Danny Moore and Westside Andy. The songs run the gamut of styles from traditional Chicago Blues, to swing, rhumba, roadhouse, delta and jump blues, all centered on Raven’s smooth-talking baritone, and tasty guitar work.
Choosing the best material from 20 years of work was certainly a daunting task as everything Raven and the Boys do is designed to burn up the dance floor. Several distinct masters of the blues harp stood proud as sidemen next to Raven through those years and so the collection begins by featuring Cadillac Pete Rahn on tracks 1 to 3 with him sparing on the cool blues ‘Handy Man,’ the smooth rhumba ‘Bee Hive Baby,’ and the jumping’ ‘Creature Of Habit.’ Madison Slim and his swirling style appears on one track ‘Bad Little Girls,’ then Benny Rickun continues the formula for several more tracks including the autobiographical title track, which also sees Danny Moore joining in on barrelhouse piano. Big Al Groth steps in on sax for the boogaloo ‘Looking For Love,’ and the double shuffle ‘Slow Burn.’ Current Altar Boy, Westside Andy Linderman, burns on the final four tracks like the flat tire swing of ‘Someday When I am Dead and Gone,’ then playing the foil to Raven’s dramatic hero on the slow blues ‘I Can Do You Right.’
The band’s bio accurately states “Raven and the Altar boys play original songs peppered with nods to Slim Harpo, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, Junior Wells and the three Kings,” and in twenty years of sweat and tears they have turned their passion for the music into high art and a singular mission to spread the gospel of the blues.
Rick J Bowen
Bringing crowds to their feet at the hardest to please and sophisticated night clubs in the Midwest, Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys play traditional blues, straight up with a big dose of passion. With smoking grooves, served up with hot harmonica and smooth stinging guitar they play original songs peppered with nods to Slim Harpo, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells and the three Kings.
Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, the Reverend has been playing the blues since 1971 when he first saw Freddie King play at the Kinetic Theatre in Chicago. After a 15-year hitch in the Navy, Chief Raven moved to Milwaukee where he began a long friendship and collaboration with Madison Slim, long time harmonica player for Jimmy Rogers.
Over the last three decades, Reverend Raven has opened for B.B. King, Gatemouth Brown, Pinetop Perkins, Koko Taylor Band, Junior Wells, Billy Branch, Magic Slim, Elvin Bishop, Sugar Blue, Lonnie Brooks, William Clarke, Lefty Dizz, Rod Piazza, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Duke Robillard, Jeff Healy, Trampled Underfoot, Mike Zito, Nick Moss, Tommy Castro and numerous others at festivals and at Buddy Guy’s Legends, where he has been on rotation as a headliner for the past 16 years.
Westside Andy is one of the premier harp players to come out of Wisconsin along with Jim Liban, Steve Cohen, Madison Slim, Matthew Skoller and Cadillac Pete Rahn. A long-time member of Paul Black’s Flip Kings and his own band, The Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band, he’s played just about everywhere and with anyone of note in the blues world. Andy has been with Reverend Raven for the past three years. More modern facts include that Hohner lists him as an endorser alongside Rod Piazza, Toots Thielemans, & Corky Siegel, among many other great players. Andy has shared the stage with James Cotton, Luther Allison, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Charlie Musselwhite, Doobie Brothers, Richie Havens, Muddy Waters, Gary Primich, Jimmy Johnson, Tab Benoit, & Hubert Sumlin, to name just a few.