Popa Chubby used to be one of those artists that I liked, but just never seemed to get around to playing very much. All that changed recently when I was fortunate enough to catch him in an intimate club (details are here) and his ability to light up that audience made me a fan for life.
We chatted for a few minutes after the show and he asked me to send him a message about his next release, and he was as good as his word and sent me a copy of The Catfish, his latest album on his own label.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to catch him live, put it on your bucket list. A true Road Warrior, he is often crisscrossing the globe playing clubs and festivals – so the chance will come if you leave yourself open to the possibility. When you do find that chance, grab it, and you will discover just what an artist this man is.
In the meantime, Chubby handles the vocals and plays guitar and percussion on all tracks, drums and bass on six tracks, and keys on one. Obviously not just a one-dimensional player. He is joined by Dave Keyes on piano and organ, and even vocals on one track; Dave Moore plays drums on five tracks; Matt Lapham plays bass on four tracks; Tipitina Horowitz adds the trumpet on two tracks; and Rich Monica plays drums on one track.
It's a very economical line up.
In addition to handling so much of the music, Chubby wrote ten of the twelve songs on The Catfish and on one of the songs he didn’t write, he handled the arrangement. Trust me, the guy has got more talent in one of his tattoos then many of the artists you hear getting overplayed on commercial radio.
So, take the bait and pick up your own copy of The Catfish.
The album starts off with some funk on Going Downtown To See My Old Gal Sue. Popa Chubby is definitely not afraid to mix his genres; using rock and funk grooves mixed with the blues is a big part of his personality.
He keeps things moving and funky with Good Thing. A big part of his performance is getting people to enjoy the music and to hit the dance floor. These first couple of songs certainly fill that bill.
You know this song. Bye Bye Love was a huge hit for the Everly Brothers and recorded by more artists than you can shake a stick at. Heck, the title was even given to a movie starring Paul Reiser. Here it becomes a gritty instrumental with some nice down and dirty riffs.
The guitar soars during Cry Till It's A Dull Ache, wringing out all the emotion from the song. It’s a moving song of pain and loss, and still cathartic as the best blues often are.
The jazz inspired Wes Is More is next. A gentle instrumental that showcases Popa Chubby’s versatility as well as a more sentimental style. I love this song and it would be at home on Time For The Blues as well as any jazz program.
If you’re not familiar with heavy metal music, the title Motörhead Saved My Life might be confusing. While that’s not my particular area of expertise, I do have several children and a wife who love it. I appreciate his approach to how music can reach us and get us through some of the toughest times. Plus, who didn’t love Lemmy? Due to a few explicit lyrics, this one you might want to skip if you’re playing it in the car with small children. Just saying…
We’re back to the blues with the next selection, Blues For Charlie, another showcase for the guitar and keys. It’s a quiet instrumental that uses a jazz approach to build the song. He starts rocking hard on the next cut, Dirty Diesel, with almost a Dick Dale surf attack setting up the lyrics. Good song. And if it doesn’t get you moving I don’t know what will.
Daughter Tipitina’s plaintive trumpet sets the mood for Slow Down Sugar, a melancholy song full of emotion. It’s got a Tejano funk beat to it and is a very intriguing number. I am really struck by his versatility on this album.
You’ve got to love that swinging set up to Put A Grown Man To Shame. We’re back in solid blues territory on this number and Keye’s keyboards get a big workout. He follows up with the title track, The Catfish, the story of the biggest fish around. It’s autobiographical and fun. And damn funky as well.
The Robert Johnson classic, C'Mon In My Kitchen brings the album to a close. Here he’s using primarily an acoustic sound keeping it closer to the original. Nice harmony and the piano makes a real difference.
I mentioned a bucket list earlier, well, a new entry on mine is to get Popa Chubby to sit for an interview sometime. I’m fascinated by his obvious love for music is all of its different genres. He’s so well versed in a variety of forms and has no problem mixing them all together on one album. You got to love the ambition and the fact that he gives his audience different sounds.
Until I can arrange that interview, you might want to check out the man for yourself. The easiest way to do it is to go to his website at https://www.popachubby.com/. If you find yourself intrigued by his approach and want to see a very cool animated treatment for the title track be sure to check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zPlB6wE1Ng. It looks like what I imagine Robert Rodriguez would do if he decided to start doing animated shorts!