I’ve always enjoyed albums in which one artist explores music with several other artists in order to see what direction that collaboration takes. In my collection are albums of duets featuring Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, among others, and now I’m delighted to add the latest from Mick Kolassa who has teamed up with different friends on a new album of duets, Double Standards.
You might remember that on Kolassa’s previous album, You Can’t Do That, featured a team up with Mark Telesca, turning Beatles classics into acoustic blues numbers. He’s shown that he has no problem taking chances with his music and he’s gathered some very talented musicians and singers to make this a very enjoyable album.
Double Standards is produced by longtime collaborator and all-around guitar wizard Jeff Jensen, who also plays guitar and even adds vocals to one song. Vocalists include Sugaray Rayford, Heather Crosse, Victor Wainwright, Annika Chambers, Tas Cru, Tullie Brae, Eric Hughes, Erica Brown, Patti Parks, David Dunavent, and Gracie Curran.
Aside from Kolassa and Jensen on guitar, musicians include Bill Ruffino on bass; James Cunningham on drums; Chris Stephenson on organ; Eric Hughes adds his harmonica to three songs; Jeremy Powell plays piano on two tracks, Alice Hasen on violin; and Colin John and David Dunavent play guitar on one track each.
The album starts off with a fun Willie Dixon number, 600 Pounds Of Heavenly Joy, which features Sugaray Rayford with Kolassa. The two have great gruff voices and this is a lot of fun to listen to and a great invitation to what must surely be an interesting journey. Jensen’s guitar adds a sweet element to the song.
A second Willie Dixon classic, I Just Want To Make Love To You gives Kolassa a chance to team up with Heather Crosse. Crosse is a strong vocalist, and the way her voice has an edgy low growl makes this song one that catches you right away and won’t let go. Definitely going to be receiving airplay on Time For The Blues, and I suspect many other shows! I don’t have any of Crosse’s other recordings, but you better believe I’m ordering the others right now. Meow…
Victor Wainwright joins Kolassa for a great version of It’s Tight Like That. Originally written and performed by Hudson Whittaker, better known as Tampa Red, this is one of those great songs that features Red’s fun wordplay. This is a great example of Hokum Blues, and I, for one, hope that we will hear more of this style. Wainwright, who has just announced he’s joining the Ruf Records family, is one of the best keyboardists alive, and his vocals rock. Eric Hughes blows a great harp on the number.
One of the most alluring and sensual songs ever recorded, Fever, showcases Annika Chambers’ great voice. This jazzy number is deeply rooted in the blues, and Stephenson’s organ adds a deeper dimension to the song. This is a great late night song to unwind to after a long day, or to hold that certain someone a little closer for an even longer night…
Tas Cru steps up to the microphone for the next song, the powerful Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out. Hasan’s violin gives the song a sweet melancholy introduction before Kolassa’s vocals come in. This version of the song pulls out all the stops and Kolassa and Cru wring every drop of emotion out of the lyrics.
BB King’s Rock Me Baby features a great collaboration between Kolassa and Tullie Brae. Stephenson’s keyboards set up the song and while Kolassa’s vocals are good, Brae takes things higher. This is another song that will be appearing on a number of shows. It’s just plain fun and while it doesn’t try to capture King’s signature guitar sound, it takes on its own soul and remains very true to the spirit of the original.
The iconic Key To The Highway has been covered by just about every blues artist over the years. Now we can add Kolassa and Eric Hughes to that list. Hughes has already added his sweet harp to a couple of previous numbers, and here he brings both his harp and vocals to the song. It’s a good interpretation of a classic tune.
One more Willie Dixon number, Spoonful, features Kolassa and Erica Brown. They turn the song jazzy with Stephenson’s keys taking the lead. Kolassa has chosen his songs wisely, mixing some of the better known works by Dixon and Tampa Red with others that are great, but perhaps not as well known. Listen for Jensen’s guitar break and they way he trades off with Stephenson. Very nice interpretation.
Patti Parks joins Kolassa on a great cover of Hudson Whittaker’s It Hurts Me Too. This is one of Tampa Red’s most covered songs and one that resonates deeply with most audiences. It’s one of those songs where the singer just bares his or her heart and pours out the emotion. A truly wonderful gem of a song, and a great interpretation.
Early In The Morning features David Dunavent on guitar and vocals. This is a rocking blues number that will be showing up on my show, and I suspect many others as well. For those who like their blues with a bit of an edge, this is the one for you!
Another number from Hudson Whittaker, aka Tampa Red, Don’t You Lie To Me (Evil), brings Gracie Curran and Kolassa together. More great keys work from Stephenson overlaid with some funky guitar and Curran’s vocals are sweet and soulful at the same time.
Jensen teams up with his old friend on their version of Outside Woman Blues. Whenever they team up there are bound to be a few surprises, in this case a more rocking number than most of the previous tracks. Jensen is one of those guitar slingers who always turns in a great performance, and once you hear him, you’re always looking for his next release.
All of the previous vocalists join Kolassa on a fun, seven-minute version of Ain’t Nobody’s Business to close out the album. Everyone seems to be having a great time and it sounds like the recording of the album was a great party and a wonderful excuse for friends to get together. Wish I could have been a fly on the wall for this one!
Mick Kolassa may not be a household name, but within the blues world he is a well respected musician. He keeps that old school sound alive and isn’t shy about sharing the spotlight with his friends and colleagues. Since discovering his talents a few albums back, I have become a big fan of his work, and Double Standards will have a welcome place in my collection.
Kolassa doesn’t tour much, staying in the Mississippi to Memphis areas for the most part, but if he does come anywhere near you, make sure to catch the performance. To find this Swing Suit Release, be sure to check out his website http://www.mimsmick.com/ and if you like what you hear, make sure to give his other releases a listen.