The Rev. Jimmie Bratcher,
Secretly Famous
(independent, 2013)

Charles "CD" Davis,
24 Hour Blues
(Blues House, 2011)

A refreshingly old-fashioned album, 24 Hour Blues feels like a 51-minute excursion through the genre in its wide-ranging forms, from the rural acoustic to the big-city, mid-century sound of Chicago and Memphis and on to jazz and r&b. The one constant is Charles "CD" Davis's guitar, played with heart and taste. Those wishing for a louder, more bombastic approach have many alternatives, but Davis is here to serve the song, not himself. He has all the chops, in short; he just doesn't feel the need to show them off.

For the singing Davis relies upon vocalists Roberta Donnay, Rue Davis (not related to Charles), Trudy Lynn and "Jabo -- Texas Prince of Zydeco," as he bills himself. No zydeco here, though, so I guess that's one kind of blues you won't find on this album. Rue Davis's take on the old Ray Charles hit "You Don't Know Me" (in its original incarnation, a country song credited to Eddy Arnold and Cindy Walker) cannot be characterized as an "interpretation." "Impersonation" is more like it.

24 Hour Blues returns with comforting frequency to my CD player as a sort of one-stop blues way station. I have more blues CDs in my collection than I can count, or would want to, and they cover every imaginable style. But no single disc surveys the range of blues expression so assuredly as this one does. It's even more impressive when one considers that this isn't an anthology, but a demonstration of one musician's command of the music in most of its colors.

In its opening cut, the Rev. Jimmie Bratcher's Secretly Famous boasts one of the greatest introductory lines I've heard in a while:

Blinding light, flash of chrome,
Hot-head blonde in a tricked-out Ford...

Well, who wouldn't want to listen further? The song is "Jupiter & Mars," co-written by Bratcher (a real reverend, by the way) and his son Jason. It highlights the album's strength: spare but gritty electric guitar with blues, r&b and rock references. It's a splendid song, to which some of the others (such as an inexplicable cover of the Association's sappy 1967 hit "Never My Love") don't measure up, alas. On the other hand, one rejoices that John D. Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road" has at last been done justice, ripped from the sticky clutches of British Invasion bubble-gum (specifically, the deservedly forgotten Nashville Teens, 1964). Bratcher fills the song with fat blues chords and my ears with joy.

Secretly Famous has its virtues, notably a wonderful technical sound and Bratcher's strong vocals. And there are some good songs, albeit punctuated occasionally by limp ones. "It Just Feels Right," an original, is as listless as its title, though balanced by the witty likes of "Bologna Sandwich Man." Blues is as much an influence as a practice here. Rock last sounded like this in the latter 1960s. If you miss that sound -- I confess I don't, particularly -- you'll like what Bratcher is up to and overlook the occasional lapses.

music review by
Jerome Clark

18 May 2013

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