Rick Fines & Friends,
Live at the Harvest
(self-produced, 2000)

Rick Fines' third solo CD, Live at the Harvest, blends blues, jazz and some folk traditions in a CD that reminds me of New Orleans every time I listen to it. However, Rick is not a fellow southerner. He hails from Canada.

According to Rick's website, he has been playing the blues for a living for 20 years, "from the Yukon to Texas, from Boston to Vancouver Island," as well as to various locations in Europe. According to my ears, Rick is a very talented blues, finger-style and bottleneck guitar player.

On Live at the Harvest, Rick presents 12 songs that were recorded live in September 2000 at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton -- the capital of New Brunswick, Canada. Other than the clapping I hear between songs, I cannot believe that this was a live recording. The recording is, for the most part, extremely clear and crisp!

Rick is joined by a host of other musicians, including Rob Phillips (piano and vocals), Richard Simpkins (upright bass and vocals), Alan Black (drums, washboard and harmonica), Gary Peeples (guitar and vocals), Suzie Vinnick (vocals), Alec Fraser (tambourine and vocals), Chris Whiteley (cornet), Georgette Fry (vocals), Al Lerman (harmonica), Kim Sheppard (vocals) and David Bedford (harmonica).

While the entire CD is worth a listen, one of the highlights is "He'll Never Know," where Suzie Vinnick's voice adds just the right touch of blues to bring this song to the head of the pack. Where Rick's voice is gravelly and deep like any good male blues singer should be, Suzie provides an interesting vocal treat right in the middle of the set. The slow cornet also adds an emotional element that can't be missed.

The CD's opening song, "Just Got Back," with Rick's vocals backed up by the piano and cornet, makes me think of beignets, Cafe du Monde, and Louisiana jazz. I love this tune!

"The Last Time," a traditional tune, reminds me of the music played on the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. The music style is certainly similar, yet Rick and friends add their own personal signature.

The traditional "Gospel Medley" at the end of the CD is a great closing tune. Many of musicians listed above lend their voices in what can easily invoke images of singing at some old-time tent revival down a small country dirt road. The harmonica and guitar work complete the picture.

If you like jazz, blues, traditional folk or Canadians who sound like they are from Louisiana (I mean this as a compliment), then I recommend Live at the Harvest. If you like what you hear -- and I think you will -- you might also check out Rick's two previous solo albums: Out of the Living Room (1998) and Arcadia (1996).

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 29 September 2001