Roadhuse album review: Tony Holiday’s excellent “Porch Sessions”

Tony Holiday — Porch Sessions Volume 2 (Blue Heart Records, Sept. 17)

It’s a pretty simple idea, really — get a bunch of good musicians together in informal settings — even front porches — record them, and turn that spontaneous music into a naturally fine album of blues.

So after the first splendid “Porch Sessions” appeared in 2019 and was nominated for a
Blues Blast Music Award in the Live Album category, Volume 2 was an easy choice.

“I’ve just been traveling around the country the last five years or so, recording bluesmen and women on their porches. It didn’t end with the first volume. It just had more life in it,” says harpman Holiday.

That “life” of 16 more songs recorded live means even more of this enthusiastic effort for our listening pleasure.

The guest artists on this recording are listed on the album cover, pictured here for your edification, and at no extra cost.

They run through a set of some old blues chestnuts and some lesser-known but still rewarding material, and they sound like they’re having a great time doing it.

Piano-pounding wizard Victor Wainwright opens the show with a tasty tribute to the classic rocking blues, “She’s Tuff,” written and first recorded in 1960 by Jerry McCain, but given new life about 20 years later by the Fabulous Thunderbirds as their signature song. It’s more than “tough enough.”

Some highlights: Willie Buck does a deep blue turn on “Honey Bee,” Bobby Rush reaches way back for the succulent “Recipe for Love” with Vasti Jackson’s understated guitar the perfect side dish. Watermelon Slim lends his unique chops to the classic “Smokestack Lightnin’.” In one of his last performances, James Hartman aces “Going to Court” with strong help from Kid Ramos and London Stone. Mark Hummel and Lurrie Bell bring some down-home flavor to “Everyday I Have the Blues,” and Rae Gordon sounds tough enough herself on the crackling “Find Me When The Sun Goes Down” with Holiday on harp.

Those are just a few of my preferences, but there’s not a false note here. Everyone is captured in a relaxed and natural setting, and they make great music to match. To make it an even better experience, add the first “Porch Sessions” into the mix and spend an evening with some of the best blues music and musicians.

And for some added enhancement, a libation of your choice. Mine was Jim Beam Black. Neat. I find bourbon and blues to always help with the hole in the soul.

Track Listing:
01 She’s Tuff Featuring Victor Wainwright
02 Honey Bee Featuring Willie Buck
03 Change Is Inevitable Featuring AJ Fullerton
04 Recipe For Love Featuring Bobby Rush
05 Smokestack Lightnin’ Featuring Watermelon Slim
06 Going To Court 2 Featuring James Harman
07 Go Featuring Jon Lawton
08 Every Day I Have The Blues Featuring Lurrie Bell
09 Brazilian Brothel Featuring Richard ‘Rip Lee’ Pryor
10 Bad Bad Girl Featuring Johnny Burgin
11 Find Me When The Sun Goes Down Featuring Rae Gordon
12 That’s How I Learned Featuring Ben Rice
13 Cake Walk Featuring Mark Hummel & Dennis Gruenling
14 Family Tree Featuring JD Taylor
15 Peace Will Come Featuring Southern Avenue
16 Get Outta Here (Dog Named Bo) Featuring Bobby Rush

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