Now this is some damn fine dirty white blues, 100% in the tradition and made by a quintet nodding very heavily back to black origins. Thus, though Steve Guyger's an excellent mouth harp player, don't expect John Popper or Norton Buffalo, as he's rough, funky, and midnight ravened, far more concerned that his own songs—and he's a superb writer—are as solid as the gems he covers. Nor does guitarist Johnny Moeller (Fabulous Thunderbirds) try to best Rory Gallagher, which can't be done anyway, but instead falls more into the Billy Gibbons and Chuck Berry mold, providing excellent rhythm until it's time for some heavysiding, chicken-scratching, or bayou wails. Like the harp-wielding ringmaster, Moeller's not trying to be a guitar hero, he's a musician.
Guyger and his harmonica are nonetheless the center of gravity on Radio Blues, and more than a hint of Butterfield, somewhere around the Elvin Bishop era, makes its way into the repertoire. This really is the child of 50s and early 60s sounds, and, at times, I expected to hear Wolfman Jack howling out the XERB call letters in the far background, especially when laying an ear to Little Rita. But if you want a bit of how sophisticated this Guyger can be, lay an ear to Blues Won't Let Me Be, a song that would bring the house down no matter where it was laid out.
You might want to also have a bottle of Wild Turkey to hand, by the way, 'cause this is the kinda Chicago sound that would make a bourbon drinker out of Saint Francis…and without a thought of repentence. Duke Robillard is lately dominating the swing side of this return to the old days, but Steve Guyger is dancing in the gutters and through the smoky back alleys of the same town. So authentic is his mastery of the genre that, were I to hide the credits as you listened to the disc, you'd not be able to tell me which cut was written by McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) and which by Guyger. Radio Blues is definitely the strongest Severn label disc I've heard yet, and that's saying something.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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