The Dave Muskett Acoustic Blues Band,
Live at the Slippery Noodle Inn
(independent, 2016)

Dave Muskett plays a mean acoustic guitar. His playing is tight, precise and sharp -- confident, and with some swagger. He is especially adept on dobro. On a first hearing of this live album, I was impressed with his playing and with that of Mark Carnes on harmonica. On subsequent playings, though, I had questions; little things nudged at the edge of my mind. What appeared as influences on first hearing suddenly appeared to be more tactics and strategies. Listening closely, I found myself questioning the originality of the Muskett band. It suddenly didn't sound or feel authentic.

Then, while I was playing the disc in the car as I drove, what had been bothering me crystalized; the song "Ain't My Good Girl Now" had always struck me with a "where have I heard this before" vibe, even though Muskett had a writing credit on it. On this listening, it kicked in; the melody is "Alice's Restaurant." I don't mean it has a similar chord structure or a similar melody line, I mean that it is, literally, "Alice's Restaurant." Muskett merely substituted new lyrics.

I listened to the other songs differently after that and heard Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and a lot of other artists in these songs.

Sure, the blues has a familiar pattern to it. Every blues artist has stolen from every other artist. But they have stolen in order to have fresh material to transform into their own style, to use to create their own vision and approach. They use the base material to help them be individual and authentic. After all, Buddy Guy learned from Muddy Waters, but he never tried to be Muddy Waters. He was authentic, and he was authentically himself.

The Dave Muskett Acoustic Blues Band has missed the move into individual and authentic.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

26 March 2016

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