Georgie Bonds,
Stepping into Time
(8th Train, 2014)

Philadelphia bluesman Georgie Bonds has a history as interesting as his music. An early fascination with horses led him to buy one at the age of 21 and become a member of Philadelphia's famous Black Cowboys. His immersion into horse culture led him to train as a blacksmith in Martinsville, West Virginia, and for 15 years he made his living that way, while playing guitar and singing for his own amusement.

Then he heard Robert Johnson.

Like so many other blues performers, hearing Johnson turned his head around, made him want to do that himself, so he began playing and singing the delta blues, winding up in the house band at Philadelphia's prime blues club, Warmdaddy's, where he backed up such artists as Hubert Sumlin, Koko Taylor, Jimmy Vaughn and Bernard Allison. It was just a step from there to become a recording and touring artist.

So how is his music? In a word, wonderful.

The album opens with an a capella version of "St. James Infirmary," which proves that all you need for the blues is a great song and a great voice. It's a mesmerizing take on a familiar song, makes you hear it anew and makes you want to hear more of Georgie Bonds. It's followed by "The Blacksmith," which features some slashing Muddy Waters-style slide guitar and Bonds turning a story of blacksmithing into 5 minutes of sexual innuendo.

Bonds and main producer Neil Taylor have assembled a first-rate band, who drive these arrangements, push them forward, so that the record cooks; the arrangements follow standard blues riffs, but bring an original kick to them, so that it is all fresh and new. And through it all Bonds unique and distinctly his own voice is foremost.

It has taken Georgie Bonds a long time -- poor health slowed him down -- and a lot of work but he is ready to emerge as one of the blues' major artists.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

13 December 2014

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