My heart skipped a beat when I pulled this one out of the mailer. One of my fave old groups was the Blues Project, which Kalb co-founded with Al Kooper and Steve Katz. What a group!! I still frequently listen to the six LPs I have and thought never to hear from Kalb again, as he faded between '68 and '96 (when Kooper got together a BP reunion). The 90s saw a bit of activity and, in 2007, Danny got together with Katz and Stefan Grossman for some picking 'n grinnin', but finding that out led me to Kalb's website, where a small handful of recent live and studio CDs are featured, so the guy's been active again in the last few years, which can be nothing but good.
Here, he displays a larger fidelity to down home stylings than was the case with his work with Blues Project, where the fretbender wielded a mean psych-blues axe always surprising for tripped-out interpretations and betcha-didn't-figure-on-that surprises, delicious as hell. Duos, trios, and quartets are the element in I'm Gonna Live, though, and they give Danny plenty of room to stretch out, sometimes hopping back to the glory days (you really can't sit on that great style), sometimes as gritty as a Harlem back alley, and other times a cross between the two. All but three of the cuts are standards, the remaining trio written by Kalb and sounding as if they too were every inch hallowed oldies.
The vocals are a bit rough around the edges at times, but that's standard for the genre. Overall, especially in cuts like Danville Dame, they fit the mode perfectly, but, really, what the fans will come to this disc for is the great guitar playing, and, sweet Jesus, can Kalb hit the zone like a man possessed! This means that followers of the modernized acoustic style will be more than satisfied with killer updates (check out Shame, Shame, Shame) while lovers of old school will salivate over preternatural licks and vibes, and even aficionados of the Slop 'N Grace Academy (a la prime Faces) will find much to embrace. Then lay an ear to Crazy Girl, a ballad drenched in 60s balladry, revealing why Phil Ochs, Dave van Ronk, and Pete Seeger, among others, readily hired him back in the day. Of all the cuts, however, my fave is Kalb's version of Baby Please Don't Go, an unusually mellow reading immensely pleasing in its radical departure from the customary barnburning normally accorded the legendary song, converting everything beautifully to an entirely new incarnation. Dan never ceases to sieve everything through an innovative eye and dexterous hand, and we can only hope that this new spate of activity and releases is the crossroads of a renewed old pro…because master he was, master he is, and, the Fates willing, master he will continue to be for years to come.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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