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The Music Scene by Bob Cianci
It's blues 'n rockabilly time: new discs by Larry Donn, Lightnin' Hopkins, Jimmy Thackery, Kim Lembo, Kid Ramos, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater and more

Larry Donn, The New Recordings, Joker Records

Larry Donn is a died-in-the-wool rockabilly piano pounder whose music, reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis, is high energy and exciting, but so poorly recorded, I couldn't bear listening past the sixth cut or so. I know Donn was going for a primitive vibe, but this is too much. The drums are barely audible, the vocals sound strained and pinched, and the overall effect is one of muddy midrange. Unless, you have to buy every nouveau rockabilly recording out there, I'd skip this one. Larry, find yourself a good studio next time.

Lightnin' Hopkins, Rainy Day In Houston, Indigo Records

I'll bet residents of Houston, Texas would be darn glad to have a few more rainy days, given the severe drought that exists in those parts lately. These recordings span a time period from 1955 until 1968 and include both acoustic and electric performances. Hopkins steely guitar licks and nasal voice have long been a favorite with many blues fans. I believe these recordings have all been previously released, but never in this form on one album before. Available as an import from Indigo Records of Great Britain: Regent House, 1 Pratt Mews, London, NW1 0AD, England.

Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers, Sinner Street, Blind Pig Records

Guitarist Jimmy Thackery, for many years the axeman with Washington D.C.'s Nighthawks, continues to release one burning disc after another, always pushing his take-no-prisoners blues/rock guitar to the forefront. The addition of sax player Jimmy Carpenter has broadened The Drivers' sound considerably, one that seems to be moving in an R&B direction. Thackery, one of the busiest touring bluesmen, shows no sign of letting up. On a sad note, Thackery's favorite old Fender Stratocaster guitar was recently stolen after a gig. Let's hope he and his lost love are soon reunited.

Kim Lembo & Blue Heat, Paris Is Burning-Live At The Chesterfield Café, Blue Wave Records

New Yorker Kim Lembo and her smokin' band's January 2000 engagement at the Chesterfield Café in Paris, France, was recorded for posterity and has now been released. Lembo is a gutsy, emotional blues singer who's been "boiling under" for way too long. In other words, she has the chops and obviously, the stage presence to connect with a larger audience. With a fine group and a raucous, highly-charged crowd on her side, Lembo really goes for the throat and succeeds on all counts.

Kid Ramos, West Coast House Party, Evidence Records

Kid Ramos has occupied the guitar chair with The Fabulous Thunderbirds since 1995, and this is his third solo album, a tribute to post-war West Coast jump swing and R&B. With an all-star cast of characters that includes Gatemouth Brown, James Harmon, Rick Holmstrom, Duke Robillard, Janiva Magness, James Intveld, Kim Wilson, Rusty Zinn, Larry Taylor, "Big Sandy" Williams and many others, Ramos recreates the much loved sound of let-it-loose California party music, so well known by blues fans. As always, Ramos leaves lead vocal duties to others, and concentrates on the guitar, with excellent results.

Eddy, "The Chief" Clearwater, Reservation Blues, Bullseye Blues Records

Eddy Clearwater has long been a favorite of Chicago blues fans, with his outlandish Indian headgear, incendiary guitar and impassioned vocals. What some people don't realize is that Clearwater was heavily influenced by rocker Chuck Berry and country music as well, sounds that make an appearance here. His last disc featured a couple of maudlin tearjerkers that didn't work. This time, the quality of material is much better, and the playing from all concerned is top notch. At over 60 years of age, Eddy "The Chief" is still a vital and entertaining blues presence.

Various Artists, Whistle Bait and Ain't I'm A Dog, 25 Rockabilly Rave-Ups, Columbia/Epic/Legacy Records

Rockabilly just refuses to die. This most basic and seminal style of rock 'n roll continues to attract new fans all the time. This appears to be Columbia's first foray into rockabilly reissues, and both volumes are killer, with artists as diverse (and sometimes surprising) as Carl Perkins, Link Wray, The Collins Kids, Little Jimmy Dickens, Rose Maddox, Johnny Horton, Johnny Cash, Ronnie Self, Ersel Hickey and many others, most lesser known. If you're new to rockabilly, there are probably hundreds of compilation discs available, many as imports only. Therefore, these two easily obtainable domestic releases are a good starting point.

The Library: Guitar Stories Volume Two, The Histories Of Cool Guitars, by Michael Wright. This book is brought to us by the people who publish Vintage Guitar magazine. Wright contributes a monthly column to that magazine detailing the histories of vintage guitars, so this is more or less a logical extension of those articles. Included here are the stories of Guild and Martin electric guitars, and other instruments by Alamo, Kay, Maccaferri and Veleno. Some chapters are fleshed out better than others (the Maccaferri chapter is the best example of this) due mostly to lack of information, poor company records, conflicting opinions or the ravages of time on people's memories. The photo sections are very nicely done, but Wright's style is clumsy at times, and the book could have used a little more thorough editing. All told however, Guitar Stories is a very interesting book for anyone interested in guitar history. Think Christmas present. Available wherever books are sold, or directly from Vintage Guitar magazine at 2219 East Main, PO Box 7301, Bismarck, ND 58507, 701/255-1197. Email is vguitar@vguitar.com.

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