Album Reviews

Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone Star Revue

Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue

Artist:     Mark Hummel's Golden State Lone Star Revue

Album:     Golden State Lone Star Revue

Label:     Electro-Fi

Release Date:     04/15/2016

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This is the debut from the blues super group that features acclaimed guitarists Anson Funderburgh and Little Charlie Baty as well as bandleader, harpist, and vocalist Mark Hummel along with drummer Wes Starr and bassist R.W. Grigsby. The blending of Northern California and Texas musicians is the fortuitous melding of configurations where some members had played together while others had not prior to touring together in 2012. Charlie Baty (Little Charlie and the Nightcats) describes it this way: “It’s all about five guys who have been playing music all their lives, but each night play with the excitement and energy of their first gig.” In the case of Baty’s (who has been playing with Hummel since 2011) previous band, the Nightcats, and Funderburgh’s Rockets, both had been led by a harpist/vocalist. Starr and Grigsby have been playing together as a rhythm section since high school and did play in the Rockets as well. So they fit together rather naturally. Baty’s fast fingered jazz style of playing is pitted against Funderburgh’s smoother, fluid lines and the two play off each other wonderfully.

Hummel says, “On this cd I wanted Anson’s production expertise as well as a mix of Texas meets California meets Chicago that is Golden/Lone’s trademark. I also wanted to add some brand new originals (six) to the mix of jazzier, Jimmy Reed style, B.B. King styled shuffles and rock n’ roll flavored gumbo that we seemed to have cooked up here.” With the addition of West Coast keyboardist Jim Pugh (Robert Cray) and sax men Eric Spaulding and Jack Sanford, they recorded in the Northern California studio of choice these days, Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studio in San Jose. The results are not as much a series of spotlighted solos or a guitar heaven that you might have envisioned.  You can expect to hear that live (and I just did recently) but here the playing is more democratic and ensemble oriented with short, crisp solos.  Jim Pugh, for example, is as prominent as the headliners. There is only one track, the closing Hummel original, “End of the World” (6:35) that exceeds five minutes. The strength of the album lies in the sequence of “Pepper Mama,” where Funderburgh pays tribute to B.B. King, followed by “Walking With Mr. Lee” with Hummel’s harp in the lead, and Grigsby’s original about the mortgage crisis, “Detroit Blues.”

These guys are all veteran bluesmen playing what noted critic Dick Shurman dubs “Real Deal Blues.” Given that Texas and California are more jazz-oriented in blues than say Delta or Chicago, that’s mostly the fare here, clear from gleaning the cover tracks from the likes of Gatemouth Brown, Lee Allen, Lowell Fulsom, Jimmy McCracklin and Mose Allison. The band has already been touring, but only a few dates remain given the other projects they’re involved in. Catch them at Fitzgerald’s in Chicago on 4/22, or the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, NE on 4/24.

– Jim Hynes

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