Bubba Mac Blues Band,
Just Life
(Treasure, 2001)

Just Life is the second CD coming out of the Bubba Mac Shack, which brings "barbeque, seafood and blues" to the folks of Somers Point, N.J. At this venue, proprietor Herb Birch ("Bubba") performs live on a weekly basis with his nine-person blues formation.

In the best of hippie traditions, Bubba's day job is running a healthy living corporation, but he has been into music since childhood. Before switching to the blues, Bubba played in banjo bands and was otherwise involved in country music. Together with sidekick Richie Baker, he forms the backbone of the Bubba Mac Blues Band, because the duo is responsible for most of the album's 14 compositions and lead vocals. Their voices are augmented with two powerful female vocalists, whose talents were honed in the gospel tradition: Terri Showers and Karen Logan-Graham. Both these ladies are music professionals and have performances at Harlem's Apollo Theatre to their credit.

Bubba and Richie Baker each have their own distinct style of arranging. The album's opening number, "I Know Now," and "Hey Fine Lady" are instantly recognizable as Bubba numbers. Another reviewer has called the first track "dark yet endearing," and there is indeed something brooding in this tune's sound. Bubba's voice is also well suited for rendering such numbers. Bubba would do well by sticking to this kind of tune, because his performance on faster-paced, rock 'n' roll-like compositions like "Take Me Back" and "Designated Smoking Area Blues" is less impressive. The penultimate track, "It's Just a Matter of Time," on the other hand has become one of my favorites, while the funky "'60s Generation" is a testimony of Bubba's hippie roots.

Baker is better at the swinging numbers; his performances on both "Thank You Baby" (a crowd pleaser) and the closing track "I Got the Feeling" are proof of that. The cool "Just Walking" is signature Baker as well.

Showers has also contributed three tracks to the album: "You Ain't Woman Enough," "Mr. Runaround Town" and "My Man." Each of these is not only a highly original arrangement, but her vocal performance is also exceptionally strong, putting her in the same league as blues giants like Koko Taylor.

The general impression of Just Life is a collection of laid-back, relaxing music, best enjoyed on a balmy summer evening, savoring BBQ, seafood and the blues.

- Rambles
written by Carool Kersten
published 3 May 2003

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