Mannish Boys – Wrapped Up And Ready – Delta Groove Music DGPCD165, 74:26 ****1/2:
(Sugaray Rayfordd – vocals; Randy Chortkoff – harmonica, vocals; Kirk “Eli” Fletcher – guitar; Franck “Paris Slim” Goldwasser – vocals, guitar, slide guitar; Willie J. Campbell – bass; Jimi Bott – drums, percussion; and many special guests including Bob Corritore, Kid Ramos, Fred Kaplan and Kim Wilson)
Taking your band name from a Muddy Waters tune may not be a bad idea. It didn’t seem to hurt The Rolling Stones. Based in Los Angeles, The Mannish Boys has undergone lineup changes (but still have core members, Kirk Fletcher and Franck Goldwasser), and maintain their profile as a top-notch blues group. With a musical blend of Chicago and Texas blues music, this group has become the embodiment of modern blues. Their latest album, Wrapped Up And Ready is evidence of that.
Opening the set (and this album feels like live performance) is the hard rocking “I Ain’t Saying”. Sugaray Rayfordd’s low-down nasty vocals and the blistering lead guitar of Monster is dynamic. Morphing into jump swing, “Everything’s Alright” features saxophones (Ron Dziubla), doo wop chorus and a guitar solo by Kid Ramos. This band (and their numerous guest artists) is in a constant groove, and everything works. “Struggle In My Hometown” has two crisp transitions and barrelhouse piano licks by Rich Wenzel. Kim Wilson (Fabulous Thunderbirds) contributes with harmonica on three cuts. The title track is explosive and has rollicking piano riffs by Fred Kaplan. Kirk “Eli” Fletcher chips in with a gritty solo. The songs reflect various blues narratives (bad love, bad finances, bad “other” things), but really is a celebration of blues music and its way of life. Whether it’s a philosophical take on romance (“It Was Fun”) or money (“Can’t Make A Living” which has Randy Chortkoff (vocals/harmonica) and a guest vocal by Trenda Fox), the beat is always propulsive and the sound is infectious.
There are many shout outs to Chicago-style blues. Steve Freund adds scorching lead guitar and a sly vocal on “The Blues Has Made Me Whole”. Kid Ramos returns on the vampy “She Belongs To Me”. Band member Franck “Paris Slim” Goldwasser answers with note for note intensity on his guitar solo. Vocalist Rayfordd never lets up. He brings intensity and “I Have Blues” has a traditional Delta feel bolstered by a “Paris Slim” slide guitar. Another take on love that is a throwback to low-down r&b is “I Idolize You”. Candye Kane breathes life into this Ike Turner classic with saucy vocals. Even “hand jive” gets aired out on “Don’t Say You’re Sorry”. The only slow tempo number is the glorious instrumental, “Blues For Michael Bloomfield” (Note: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, featuring the late Bloomfield on guitar has been nominated for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2015). Impressively, a well-crafted, flowing album ends on an even higher note with a barrage of guitar licks in an exhilarating blues jam.
The overall sound on this recording is great. The guitars are both piercingly ear-splitting and fuzzily distorted depending on the song. Background piano tinkling is clear and the vocalists are captured with a full sound. The liner notes are copious, with more details (numbered solos, channel identification) than an extra-inning all-star baseball game. But they shine a light on this ambitious project. The Mannish Boys surely “let the good times roll”!
TrackList: I Ain’t Sayin’; Everything’s Alright; Struggle In My Hometown; Wrapped Up And Ready; It Was Fun; I Can Always Dream; I Idolize You; You Better Watch Yourself; Something For Nothing; Can’t Make A Livin’; The Blues Has Made Me Whole; I Have Love; Troubles; She Belongs To Me; Don’t Say You’re Sorry; Blues For Michael Bloomfield
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