Over four decades as a musician playing a variety of styles in order to get his chops in, find gigs, and keep a presence in a changing landscape crawling with here-today gone-tomorrow bands, Mark T. Small never lost his seminal love for the Doc Watson, Norman Blake, and the old black blues that captured mind, soul, and heart. Thus, this one-man-one-guitar CD is a rekindling of the very essence of what it means to be a musician from the ground floor up. All 14 cuts are just Small and one of a six-pack of five acoustics and one electric axe. Blacks, Whites, and the Blues, then, becomes a hazardous gamble, a naked exposition of just precisely whether this daring gent can fill up the old whiskey bottle and decant it for a modern audience…
…a piece of audacity I'm happy to report is exceedingly well carried off, yea even unto the bottom of that raw and smoky corn likker jug. I was particularly arrested by his rendering of Mississippi Fred McDowell's A Few More Lines, the kind of take Peter Green, T.S. McPhee, or John Mayall might have come up with in the height of their days. Small really nails exactly what the CD proclaims: the meeting ground where all colors and cultures meet to lament, pine, gripe and bitch, and ultimately go away satisfied despite all reason not to. That's what the blues is, y'all, a cathartic, and that's what this disc serves to remind us of.
That quality applies just as much to the two instrumentals closing out the affair, the kind of numbers Leon Redbone, David Bromberg, or Leo Kottke might choose to include in their own CDs or concerts, but, again, just the bravado of releasing a true solo-in-all-respects CD is impressive. It's really not done any more. And one last major note: one of the best cuts of this treasure chest is Boogie Woogie Guitar Man, Small's own composition, the only one of its kind on the CD, and the cut's sprightly, clever, quicklipped (a zephyr of triple-time singing), and worthy of standing in the modern canon. One must suspect that forthcoming releases, more redolent of his own composing hand, will carry this vibe forward in spades.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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