Since I opened the Blues Roadhouse late last year, I’ve written about a bunch of new albums that I’ve heard and enjoyed. I’ve resisted the occasional temptation to reach back beyond my start date for new releases, simply because there would be so many. And, you know, so little tiime.
But then I got my April newsletter from Sue Foley the other day, in which she mentioned shooting a video for an album she cut with Mike Flanigin last July, the album being titled “West Texas Blues.”
Well. I do love some fine B3. Likewise, Foley’s vocals and crisp guitar (plus, my very first girlfriend was a redhead, too). And West Texas itself, always a kind of mysterious place full of folklore, tough music, and tougher hombres (at least that’s how it seemed in the old cowboy movies I saw).
But what really caught my eye here was an image on Flanigin’s web site, promoting the formats in which this new album is available. Normally, you can get a CD, and digital downloads. And usually, streaming platforms. And sometimes, a vinyl version.
But “West Texas Blues” is not only available on CD and online, it’s available on cassettes! And 8-tracks!! And, wait for it, REEL-TO-REEL!!! All right here. I mean, I once knew someone who had a reel-to-reel player, but that was about a half-century ago. It did sound quite good, though.
But you say you only have a turntable, because that’s the only way that recorded music can possibly sound good? There’s also a 180-gram vinyl version available from Experience Vinyl.
The idea of a 21st-century 8-track is somewhat mind-boggling, but I think it was the reel-to-reel that got me. How could I not write about this album?
And, given the talent, and the resulting music, how could I not like it?
“West Texas Blues” is stripped-down, bare-bones blues. No frills. No fancy production gimmicks. It features just three stellar musicians: Flanigin, a Hammond B3 wizard, Foley, a Canadian-born but nonetheless Texas guitar wizardress, and Chris ‘Whipper’ Layton, holding it all together on drums.
It’s a “live” in-studio production that flows effortlessly. The haunting title track opens the album with guitar and organ riffs sensuously entwined around a rock-solid beat.
There’s a pair of sweet-sounding duets between Foley and Flanigin — “If You Think I’ve Lost You” and “Candy Kisses,” but they never lose the underlying toughness of the sound.
It’s not all haunting melodies: “Rooster Blues,” “Congo Mombo,” “I Live Where the Action Is” and “Bad Boy” all kick up the right amount of desert dust for dancing – real or mirage.
So yes, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable effort. Three talented musicians getting together to make some very personal blues to share. It sounds like the album cover looks.
Even if you don’t have an 8-track or reel-to-reel player, you should give it a listen.
Here’s the opening track, “West Texas Blues”
West Texas Blues
I Got My Eyes on You
I Live Where the Action Is
If You Think I’ve Lost You (Secret Weapon)
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