Big Apple Blues – Brooklyn Blues
2010, Stone Tone Records
Big Apple Blues is a New York City-based blues collective working to keep the storied art form alive and relevant. Built around a revolving roster of New York City blues cats, the current cast includes Zach Zunis (Janiva Magness, Great William Clark, Rick Holmstrom); Barry Harrison (Shemekia Copeland, Michael Powers); Anthony Kane (Muddy Waters, Junior Wells); Admir “Dr. Blues” Hadzic; Hugh Pool (Hugh Pool Band); Brian Mitchell (Bob Dylan, Al Green, B.B. King, Mary J. Blige) and the irrepressible Christine Santelli. Formerly known as the Stone Tone Blues Band, Big Apple Blues looks to keep the Chicago electric blues sound alive, and does so from the burgeoning Indie music scene of New York with the aptly titled Brooklyn Blues.
Brooklyn Blues opens with an entertaining blend of blues, R&B and rock n roll on “Too Many Drivers”; an innuendo-laden tune expressing romantic interest in a woman but also wondering, perhaps, at her morals. “Too Many Drivers” is a great, energetic start to the album, showing hints of what is to come. “Killing Floor” is energetic and danceable; a sour grapes song about why he hasn’t left a relationship before now. “Brooklyn Swamp” is a solid but uninspired instrumental. Big Apple Blues is tight and technically proficient here; you just don’t get the sense that much is going on behind the scenes here. “Honey Hush” brings out a man’s inner Neanderthal; an old school blues tune that is entertaining and is vaguely reminiscent stylistically of Cab Calloway.
“Whole Lotta Lovin’” is full of the machismo of a top notch pick-up artist. The vocals show great presence, and the Big Apple Blues provides among their best instrumental performances on the album. “How Many More Years” is a kiss-off song; a song of walking out. The song itself is middle of the road, but Brian Mitchell’s guitar work is first-rate. “Everything Is Gonna Be Alright” turns into a long form blues jam, showing off the distinctive instrumental talents of the band. The guitar work of Mitchell and the harmonica work of Hugh Pool in particular stand out. “It’s My Life Baby” is a song of pining for someone who is gone that’s well constructed and tightly played. Pool once again stands out blowing some of the hottest harp east of Chicago’s South Side. “Hate To See You Go” is musically and lyrically repetitive. Big Apple Blues gets caught in a brief rut here and on “Who’s On Third (Duvel)”, but recover nicely with the closing track, “Mellow Down Easy”. “Mellow Down Easy” is a party song of sorts; lyrically simplistic but with a solid vibe.
Big Apple Blues brings the early days of electric blues alive on Brooklyn Blues. The sound here is dynamic, and probably best suited to a live setting, but Big Apple Blues make a solid effort at capturing that sound on CD. The highlights on Brooklyn Blues are found in the seams of the music. Hugh Pool is a rock star, figuratively speaking, and Brian Mitchell seems alive in every moment on the album. It’s all tied together by the impressive musical heartbeat provided by Barry Harrison, but it’s ultimately the chemistry achieved by Big Apple Blues that will win you over. Not every moment of Brooklyn Blues works perfectly, but there are enough perfect moments to go around.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)Learn more about Big Apple Blues at http://www.bigappleblues.com/. Brooklyn Blues is available from Amazon.com as a CD or Download. Digital copies are also available from iTunes.