West of Memphis,
Honey Pie
(independent, 2007)

The new CD, Honey Pie, by California blues band West of Memphis is an album of traditional blues -- the shadow of Muddy Waters hovers over it like a cloud, and if Little Walter had never lived, harmonica man Karl Cabbage would had to take up a different instrument.

On the album, they cover two Willie Dixon songs, "Who" and "I'm Ready," a tune closely associated with Muddy Waters, whose "Crosseyed Cat" is covered also. Little Walter's "I've Got to Go" appears here also. Their originals fall directly within the tradition, sounding as though they could have come out of Chicago's southside in 1954.

Right there is both the major strength and the prime weakness of Honey Pie. These guys are really good at reproducing the Chicago sound but they don't seem to have any sound of their own; there's very little originality here. They don't transform the material but seem to be happy to simply recreate the sound of the masters.

You've also got to consider that producer Geoff Starin didn't do the band any favors. The album sounds like it was recorded in a broom closet. The sound is muddy and weak. It all sounds far away and crushed together. It's not a case of turning the volume way up to get the music into your bones; you have to turn it up simply to hear it.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

21 June 2008

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