Big Joe Duskin,
Big Joe Jumps Again:
Cincinnati Blues Session

(Yellow Dog, 2004)

As many of the old guard of blues artists pass from the scene, it is a pleasure to hear this recording made by Big Joe Duskin when he was 83 years old.

Duskin plays a classic-style piano, but he does not otherwise show his age much on these 16 tracks. The producers seem to have put Duskin in the studio and let him play what he wanted. There is a nice range, with the boogie-woogie of "You're Gonna Miss Me (Parts One & Two)," blues classics like "Every Day I Have the Blues," more obscure blues like Roosevelt Sykes's "Get Out of the Way," the Duskin-penned piece "Mean & Strange," the gospel of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and even Johnny Horton's '60s hit "North to Alaska."

This variety of styles surely gives an insight into what Duskin used to play. He undoubtedly varied his repertoire in the venues of Cincinnati to whatever his listeners wanted to hear. He includes humor, too, with pieces like "Sloppy Drunk" and "Beer Drinking Woman."

Some of the pieces stop short, some with Duskin beginning to reminisce. The most notable spoken piece is "The Preacher & the Devil's Music," his story about how his father used to beat him when he caught him playing "the devil's" blues or boogie.

Duskin is perfectly matched with veterans Ed Conley on bass and Phillip Paul on drums. The same cannot be said of the guest guitarists. Co-producer William Lee Ellis does not overwhelm the traditional story song of "Betty & Dupree," but slide guitar does not seem to fit with Duskin's Cincinnati piano style. There is also shaken percussion that is much too loud and takes away from the otherwise rollicking "One Dirty Rat," written by Memphis Minnie.

Peter Frampton's takes are worse. The pairing is not as strange as it might seem. Before his Comes Alive days, he was a member of the blues-based Humble Pie. But his solos on "Key to the Highway" and "Black Mountain Blues" sound obviously overdubbed, and he seems to be playing against Duskin instead of with him. By the way, Frampton has lived in Cincinnati for five years.

Co-producer Larry Nager plays bass on the two cuts with Frampton, but he wisely stays out of the way. Shawna Snyder takes the vocals on the latter cut with a feel for traditional blues.

The liner notes are particularly good, with extensive background material about Duskin.

This CD is the real deal, well worth visiting by fans of the blues or any genre of Americana.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 5 March 2005

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