The Christopher Dean Band w/ “Chicago” Carl Snyder
Need a Friend
Lost World Music
If not mistaken, Need a Friend is the fifth album for guitarist/singer-songwriter Christopher Dean on “Chicago” Carl Snyder’s Lost World Music label. Dean has been touring steadily with his own combo for close to thirty years while “Chicago” Carl Snyder has been playing for over six decades, half of which were in the Windy City as the keyboardist for Junior Wells, Son Seals, Jimmy Johnson, John Primer, and Otis Rush. With “Chicago” Carl, on keyboards, we know we are getting the real deal stuff. (“No rock, pop, or easy listening, just straight-up blues”) Dean is primarily known as a guitarist but reveals himself to be a naturally soulful vocalist and songwriter, although he has just one original here. The band includes horn player Dean’s core band is a septet of Chicago Carl (piano, organ), Walter Jarrett (bass), Steve Lombardelli (horns), Dave Hollingsworth (drums), Mike McMillan (rhythm/lead guitar), and Nate Myers (harmonica, vocals).
The program opens with Snyder’s piano infusing Magic Sam’s “Otis Have I Done Wrong,” complete with fiery guitar lines and soulful vocals. Memphis Minnie’s “Need a Friend” carries a country-blues acoustic feel with a “Chicago” Carl piano break before we roar back to the Windy City for Otis Rush’s searing West Side shuffle, “It Takes Time.” Staying on the West Side, the band launches into the mid-tempo Magic Sam’s “Out of Bad Luck,” presumably with Myers on the vocal, before tapping into the more obscure blissful shuffle “Mattie May,” originally done by Baby Boy Warren in 1954. Yes, Dean and “Chicago” Carl are musicologists too. Favoring Magic Sam (and nothing’s wrong with that) the band tackles “Call Me If You Need Me,” delving into slow blues mode featuring piercing guitars from Dean and McMillan as well as well-placed and paced pianism from Snyder.
The album becomes less Chicago-centric in the second half, beginning with Snook Eaglin’s “Country Boy In New Orleans,” recorded when the writer was a street musician in the city, and imbued by Lombardelli’s saxophone and Hollingsworth’s NOLA beats. B.B. King’s “Blind Love” brings back the soaring electric guitars with punchy horns filling in the gaps. Delivering more diversity, they turn next to Blind Willie McTell’s “Cold Winter Day,” a feature for the slide guitar. Dean’s original, “Appalachian Women,” also bears a country old timey feel with tasty picking from McMillan and the writer as Snyder exchanges piano lines with both in a swinging jazz mode that continues into Robert Jr. Lockwood’s “Pearly B” where we hear some inventive organ playing, Myers’ wailing harp and kinetic kit work. That B3 remains prominent in Buddy Guy’s smoldering “Strange Feelings.” As the longest track, it becomes a showcase for Dean’s guitar and Snyder’s piano excursions, buttressed by the horns. Just shy of an hour of authentic blues, the album closes with the guitar driven shuffle “Blues Serenade” from Babyface Turner, ironically produced by Ike Turner (no relation) in 1952.
Real deal blues is thriving in Pennsylvania.
- Jim Hynes