Grady Champion,
One of a Kind
(Malaco Records, 2016)

Of the new stars to emerge on the blues scene over the past few years, few have shown as brightly as Grady Champion. A Grammy-winning, harp- and guitar-playing blues singer and songwriter, with a background in production, Champion has it all. Since joining Mississippi's Malaco Records, he has added that extra bounce that every performer needs -- a strong team in your corner.

One of a Kind, his sophomore release on Malaco (10th album overall) is a house party, a collection of shuffles, old-fashioned r&b numbers and boogie numbers designed to get you participating; Champion's harmonica drives most of the arrangements and takes a lot of the solos. Rhythms vary nicely, even within individual songs; each cut leads to the next, which does something to both extend the mood of the earlier song while contradicting it. The effect is like a car being driven in two directions at once by a NASCAR master.

"Life Support" has a hook that is made up of an eight-bar boogie figure played on matching guitar and blues harp. After the hook is established, the song changes direction, goes into a '50s Little Walter-type of thing, while repeating the hook as a chorus. You've never heard anything like this but when it's over you wonder why more artists aren't copying this figure.

"Move Something" addresses the person who goes to the party and hangs back in a corner. In a medium tempo, Memphis-style r&b tune, Champion advises his buddy to forget the fact that he can't dance; just get out on the dance floor and "move something." The piano, organ and horn section demonstrate how to move something, and the whole song demonstrates the joy in Grady Champion's music.

If you're one of those people who believe the blues is sad, Champion is here to remind you that the blues is a celebration -- sometimes you celebrate the good, sometimes the sad.

With "Stone in My Path," Champion goes into Sonny Boy Williamson territory and shows he has a pretty good map. In fact, he dedicates the rest of the album to showing just how good his map is, settling down to play five songs of hard, strong, undiluted blues.

When you get home from this trip, believe me, you know you've been somewhere.

And you'll want to repack your bags and go there again.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

20 August 2016

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