Dan Treanor
& African Wind,
(Plan-It, 2006)

Dan Treanor calls the music on Mercy the Afrosippi blues, meaning a combination of African and blues, with other influences added along the way. Bringing the blues back to its roots is not a bad idea, and Treanor and African Wind pull it off, with the help of many guest musicians.

The rich, expressive vocals of Rex Peoples make a big contribution to the CD's success. Peoples sounds like a native African singer, and he can capture subtle blues inflections. His rich, powerful voice also has a gospel feel. The women of African Wind also sing on a few cuts. However, their voices sound a bit too "folky" and refined to be fully comfortable in this setting, except on the '50s-style ballad "Standing in the Shadows."

On "Mississippi Fred's Dream," a recording of bluesman Fred McDowell's voice is repeated over an instrumental that includes African percussion and blues guitar. "What You Gonna Do" uses a New Orleans piano and a "second line" marching beat.

"You Shot the Gun" is a straightforward version of a Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell song, featuring the piano of guest musician Jim Beckstein. A Celtic fiddle is added to "Burden of Blues." "African Tale" and "Field Hollar #1" are self-descriptive. They are a spoken-word story told to African flute and percussion, and a musical call-and-response with blues and wah-wah guitar. "Mercy" is a gospel song. "Tonight's the Night" uses a John Lee Hooker boogie beat.

"The 13th Amendment" is the worst cut. It begins with a voice intoning, "In 1865, after the end of the Civil War, slavery was abolished forever." The narration, done over a blues guitar, is heavy handed and pretentious.

The overly light and non-bluesy "Queen of the Dance Hall Girls" has too little of the Mae West promised in the song's description on the CD sleeve. (Mae would have realized that dance hall girls do more than just dance.)

Except for those two, Treanor's experiments and his varieties of style are successful. This CD could be filed under world, blues or folk and can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates those styles.

by Dave Howell
8 July 2006

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