Monday, January 7, 2013

Catfish Keith Put On A Buzz


As you may have gathered from my sporadic posting record, the Professor tends to get distracted from time to time. It’s not easy running the most successful Juke Joint in Jordan’s Branch (okay, technically the ONLY Juke Joint), being an actor and theatre commentator, and co-starring in the strangeness that is Time For The Blues. Add to that my career as a business consultant, househusband, and underwear model, and you get a feel as to why I can get a mite distracted occasionally.

Still, my passion always returns to music and writing and I find myself back at the beginning of the circle. 

When that happens I like to find a CD that takes me back to my roots – something that’s stripped down to the basics. I like to listen to someone who is not afraid to let his voice do the talking – no big amplifications, no complicated playing – just a man or woman standing up, unafraid.

Well, I got my wish from Catfish Keith’s effort from 2011, Put On A Buzz. There are 14 songs on the album; some original, some covers of great songs that aren’t done to death. Keith is backed by his guitar and the simplicity is a joy to listen to. He’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite go-to guys to listen to and it’s a good thing he’s so prolific (14 albums so far) as that means I’ve got a lot to listen to in order to catch up with 
him.

He kicks off the album with a great Lead Belly song, On A Monday. I’m a big fan of Lead Belly and love to hear anyone who preserves his great legacy. Keith does the song justice and his bottleneck style playing sets up the rest of the CD nicely. I can already tell this is going to be a fun record.

Sigh of the Whippoorwill is next, an original that is an homage of sorts to the Carter Family. The Carters were from just up the road apiece and their music was a large part of my early life. It’s great to hear this song and yeah, I could hear the Carters tackling this one. Keith follows up with another Lead Belly side, Grasshoppers In My Pillow, one of his dark stories (okay, that’s pretty much a given) about lost love and 
losing hope.

Yeah, I’m liking this CD a lot and we’re only three songs in.

Willie The Chimney Sweeper is a dark story song from the 1930’s about a weird drug trip. I had never heard the song before, but its haunting approach is eerily beautiful. Next up is an original, Paying for It Now. It’s got a nice sound and the lyrics are fairly universal.  Then comes another original, Put On A Buzz (Just Like A Bumble Bee), and it’s a catchy number.

Bukka White was a great singer who burst on the blues scene in the 1940’s but disappeared for a while. He was rediscovered during the great blues revival of the 1960’s and Keith does his best to capture his spirit in Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues. In my opinion he does a good service to White’s style and memory.

Xima Jo Road was inspired by a dusty old road in Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s wild down there and you can feel the exhilarating danger and freedom that exist hand in hand. This one will be on Time For The Blues, just so I can hear Henry try to pronounce the title. Next up is the gospel blues song He Rose From The Dead. Keith reworked the lyrics on this one and even dubs in some harmony with himself. This is a very cool song.

Keith continues to show his love for the very old-school singers that influenced him with Nobody’s Buisness. This was a Frank Stokes side and he recorded during the 1920’s and Keith captures that feel and the lyrics are strong. I would have loved to have heard Stokes at his prime. I’m glad that Keith and a few other singers are preserving and re-creating these sounds that most of us would never hear otherwise.

Keith, challenging himself again, performs Lost Lover Blues, which was originally a duet between Lottie Kimbrough and Winston Holmes. Keith takes on both parts and sings harmony with himself and the result is a sweet melancholy love song. Hawaiian Cowboy is next and I wish I could tell you if he’s pronouncing the Hawaiian correctly, but don’t have a clue. I can tell you I liked the music a lot.

Can’t Be Undone is another original and contains some of the wildest lyrics yet. The album closes with Keith’s version of Jazz Gillum’s Reefer Head.

Catfish Keith won’t be to everyone’s taste. But I’ve got to tell you, I’m hooked on his stripped down approach and his obvious love for the music. This is a calling to him and next time he comes a-calling around here, I’m going to jump on it. According to my calculations, he seems to release a new CD every couple of years, so I’m hoping that 2013 will bring a new one.

Check him out at www.catfishkeith.com.

(Picture was lifted from the Catfish’s web site. If you’re the owner of the copyright and want us to remove it, just let us know and we’ll comply. But we son’t dangle any more worms in the pond either. That’ll show you.)

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