Corky Siegel,
Solo Flight: 1975-1980
(Gadfly, 1999)

For the last 30 years, blues master Corky Siegel has been entertaining audiences -- either with the Siegel-Schwall Band, solo, or in front of a symphony. An originator of "chamber blues" (the name of his current band), Siegel has made the transition from pure blues to a mix of blues and classical. This album, a retrospective and collection of unreleased material, is a transitional piece between those two styles.

The best word to describe this album is simple -- there are very few instruments involved in the songs, as you'll mostly hear Siegel's piano and harmonica chops, and a smattering of violin, sax, guitar, percussions, and very little backing vocals. You get, in the sparsely produced album, sixteen tracks that almost all sound like studio outtakes. But by keeping it simple, Siegel really brings out the heart in the music. With a voice reminiscent of Parrot Head numero uno Jimmy Buffett, Siegel gives you a slice of Chicago blues from the past that is an education in itself. His humor shines forth in songs like "Idaho Potato Man" and "I Don't Care Wat-Cha-Doin," while the sensitive side comes out in "On the Rebound" and "Good Thing." On the track "Hobo Bill's Last Ride," Siegel saves up all the production for this number, blending vocal tracks and music to sing the ballad of a lonely hobo.

More of a history lesson then a piece of entertainment, I would recommend this album to any fan of the blues. As a blues guitar fanatic, even I found something to enjoy and take with me from this album. While I enjoyed "Chamber Blues" a bit more for the classical touch, this is an interesting look at a musical legend in the making.

[ by Timothy Keene ]



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