|This sparkling set, like the earlier ones, is the brainchild of Betsie Brown, who heads the music marketing organization Blind Raccoon, and Sallie Bengston, who, with Brown, operates the Blue Heart label. They are responsible for the impressive selection of talent represented here, with original songs taken from existing and upcoming albums, as well as previously unreleased material.
This latest sampler opens with the “Ballad Of Pat Hare,” written by and featuring the deep, soulful blues of London’s Oliver “Mississippi” MacDonald, a guitarist whose vocals and guitar seem to have been dredged from the muddy waters of blues origins. Hare himself was an original, a 1950s bluesman whose power chord guitar helped father heavy metal bands. The Reverend Shawn Amos adds vocals and harp work.
Rolling on, “Tidal Wave” is a gorgeous instrumental from Anthony Geraci on piano and Hammond organ. “My Baby Loves Me Like a Hurricane” storms into view next, a memorable hard-rocking track from the late Kip London.
Harpman Douglas Avery offers his original “Survival,” featuring Franck L. Goldwasser on guitar, in a dirge-like track reminiscent of The Doors, of which he is an honorary member. The joyous vocals of Teresa James spark “I Do My Drinkin’ On The Weekend,” a rocking country song that’s rolling with her honky-tonk piano.
The Texas Horns combine with vocalist Ange Kogutz and guitarist Anson Funderburgh on the R&B-laced “Never Buy My Soul” by Horns’ saxman John Mills. Benny Turner offers his “Smoke My Peace Pipe (Smoke It Right) aka A Tribute To Big Chief Bo Dollis,” the leader of the Wild Magnolias, who took part in Indian masking traditions and performed New Orleans Mardi Gras music.
Dave Keyes works special keyboard magic on his own “Pookie Po Po,” a track that swings hard with delicious New Orleans rhythms. “Man Goes Blind” is tough bluesy rocker with a social conscience from guitarist Trevor B. Power. “Forever Blue” is an emotion-stirred ballad from Terry Wilson-Slesser and Mark Taylor, with Wilson-Slesser on the soulful vocals.
The lovelorn barroom blues of “Struck Out Again” by chromatic harp wizard Big Harp George (George Bisharat) is an unreleased bonus track from his 2018 album “Uptown Cool.” Fingerstyle guitarist Steve Howell & The Mighty Men preview the Betty James and Clarence Edward Johnson R&B chestnut “I’m A Little Mixed Up” from Howell’s upcoming album, “99½ Won’t Do.”
“She Might Meet Me” is a jazzy, upbeat track flowing from Kenny Parker’s languorous guitar, featuring Fred Foley on vocals. Blind Lemon Pledge (James Byfield) polishes up the vintage classic “House Of The Rising Sun,” a preview from his forthcoming album, “Oh So Good.”
The inimitable Reverend Freakchild brings the session to a stirring acoustic finale with his haunting “Don’t Miss Nothing ‘Til It’s Gone,” which adds The Reverend Shawn Amos on harp and vocals in its final bars.
All of the samples from these talented artists highlight the elegant eclecticism and remarkable originality of Blind Raccoon artists. And best of all, it makes damn good listening all by itself.
Jim White (a former music writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette & now writes the Blues Roadhouse)