One of the things I enjoy most about my job, if you can call what I do an actual job, is finding new performers, or at least ones that I haven’t heard yet. Fortunately, I have a great many partners representing these artists, and every so often a package will show up with my name on it and a bunch of CDs inside and I go away to my little desk and smile and spin records like a giddy teenaged girl.
One of the CDs that just made it to my desk is from a man with whom I have had no experience with, Gordon Meier, and his band, The Gordon Meier Blues Experience. Their debut album, Magic Kingdom, is chock full of covers of some of the great blues songs from the mid-20th Century including a few favorites of mine.
Reading the liner notes, which were written by Meier himself, I could tell the man was very passionate about his profession and he’s assembled a great group of musicians that include himself on vocals and guitars, as well as Lester Veith on drums and lead vocals on one song; Mark Friedman on bass and backing vocals; Joe Taino plays slide guitar on two tracks; Dean Shot plays guitar on three tracks; Dennis Greunling on harp on five tracks; and Tom Hammer on electric piano for one track and organ on three.
The Blues Experience kicks off the album with the Howlin’ Wolf classic, Howlin’ For My Darlin’. As it is one of Wolf’s best known numbers, if you are going to start things off with it, you better be able to deliver the goods. Meier does a good job on both guitar and vocals and his band stays tight on the song. It’s a decent start and as there are a number of covers on this album, I’ll be curious to see how he progresses.
He follows up with John Primer’s Stop Draggin’ My Chain Around. Dennis Gruenling’s harp is a good addition to the line up and the band sounds like it’s having a good time recording the song. I bet this one is great when they do it live and can really have some fun with it. It’s a good version with a killer guitar break.
The Experience keeps rocking on the next number, Buddy Buddy Friends. They utilize an extended musical opening before Meier steps in with the vocal. The song, written by Dr. Feelgood and recorded by artists like Magic Slim and Ronnie Earl, tells about all the people that just might start hanging around you once you get a taste of notoriety and money. Especially money…
Meier wrote Just Keep Ridin’, and the song is a good blues road song that is greatly enhanced by Greunling’s harp. It’s solid and will appeal to most blues fans and is capable of garnering some airplay.
The first of two Freddie King songs is next. In The Open originally dates back to 1961 and is an exceedingly difficult instrumental to play. Tom Hammer deftly handles the piano and organ chores on the song and The Experience plays the song with style and just enough funk to evoke the spirit of King. Good job on this one guys…
For Red Headed Woman, drummer Lester Veith gets behind the microphone for the lead vocals. The song has a jazzy flavor and Veith kicks in and delivers some strong singing to make this a fun song. For those of us who have a red headed woman in our lives, it really strikes a chord. I like this one a lot.
Jimmy Rogers’ Gold Tail Bird follows. The song, originally done in 1972, was Rogers’ attempt to bring in a younger audience. Meier and Company give it a slow blistering interpretation. It’s the kind of smoldering blues tune that just gets under your skin and makes you feel the singer’s emotion in every note.
Oscar Brown’s version of Signifyin’ Monkey has long been one of my favorite songs. This one is much closer in spirit to Rudy Ray Moore’s delivery of it and that version was not one of my favorites. I don’t object to language as a general rule, but I feel that it has to advance the narrative, and in this case, I don’t feel that it’s necessary. Still, it’s the artist’s vision, just be forewarned if you plan on putting it on the air or are playing it in the car with small children riding with you…
Magic Sam’s She Belongs To Me follows. This one is a decent pop flavored blues song. Meier’s vocals aren’t as strong as I would have thought on this one, but his guitar playing is solid. One of his originals, Someday Baby, is next. Greunling adds his harp and the song has a funky beat.
Meier and Company performed a Howlin’ Wolf number earlier, so it’s time for a Muddy Waters tune, Gypsy Woman. Meier has put together a number of good covers for the album, and this one is among the best. He’s picked men who were the heart of the blues during specific times and he’s done right by all of them.
They take the album out with their second Freddie King number, The Stumble. It’s another instrumental and once again they tear it up. It’s an appropriate way to end the disc and go out on a high note.
Gordon Meier writes eloquently in his notes about his journey through Chicago and his friendship with Magic Slim. The talks about Slim encouraging him to find his own voice in the blues.
I would like to echo Slim’s words as Meier has proven that he is a great interpreter of the blues, but while these are not slavish remakes, I want to hear more from his own story, not just interpretations of the greats.
Magic Kingdom is a decent album, solid, and other than that one song, immensely playable over the radio. It’s a good place to start and I think we’re going to be hearing more from Meier in the future. I didn’t locate a dedicated website, but you can find out more about him from his publicist’s website, http://blindraccoon.com/clients/gordon-meier-blues-experience/.