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Bo Ramsey - Stranger Blues
Review by Ricardo


Ramsey is, apparently, a leading proponant of the 'Iowa Sound' - "A unique blues/folk/rock hybrid"... Hmm... not sure about that but I do like this sparse, low key, ethereal re-working of some classic blues songs - Howlin' Wolf's 'Sitting on Top of The World', Little Walter's 'Crazy Mixed UP World' and the title track, Elmore James' 'Stranger Blues' to name but three.

Maybe you could call it 'Minimal Blues', so stripped down is it to it's essentials. Compared to the histrionics of a lot of contempory blues music this makes a welcome change, focusing as it does on the soul of the song rather than the sports-guitar antics of the singer. The playing throughout, though, is impeccable - these boys (and girl - Pieta Brown features, and is great, on several tracks) have got some taste and style in their chops and a 'less is more' philosophy is apparent throughout.

That's not to say that this record lacks substance however. These musicians are heavyweights, it's just that, like Ali leaving that last punch un-thrown as Foreman was going down, they know that it's, well, cooler to hang back sometimes.

This could be described as a tribute album, indeed Ramsey's own blurb talks about him honouring his inspirations, but the tribute is in breathing fresh life into the songs, not in re-treading the same knackered tyre. Great sounding, with something to add, this is a record The Blues can be proud of. So can Bo.

Available from July 18th 2006 at www.cdbaby.com