Roadhouse Album Review: Bob Stroger steps out front with classic blues in “That’s My Name”

Bob Stroger and the Headcutters — “That’s My Name” — Delmark Records

After playing as a sideman on more than 30 Delmark record releases over the years, bassist Bob Stroger finally gets his chance to strut his bluesy bass work as a band leader for the label, at the age of 91, on the album “That’s My Name.”

He does so in front of the Headcutters, a snappy blues quartet from Brazil.

Stroger’s vocals are still smooth and ripe with his feelings for the music. The Headcutters sit back behind the vocals and make their own tough statement, but don’t overwhelm. It makes for fine blues listening.

The Headcutters are Joe Marhofer (harmonica and vocals), Ricardo Maca (guitar), Arthur Catuto (acoustic bass) and Leandro Cavera (drums). They add the special talents of guests Luciano Leaes on piano and organ,, and Braion Johnny on sax.

Stroger has written five of the 13 tracks; the rest are covers of some fine blues chestnuts. The opener is “What Goes On In The Dark,” with its a down-home vibe, followed by Eddie Taylor’s sturdy “Just A Bad Boy,” with a punchy harp, and then the classic “C.C. Rider.” All vintage blues that go down as smooth as good whiskey.

Then Stroger adds a pair of his own: the slow-dragging “I’m A Busy Man,” followed by the bluesy bounce of “Come On Home.” Then Stroger’s version of another classic blues, “Move To The Outskirts of Town,” followed by Jay McShann’s “Keep Your Hands Off Her.”

There are more, all featuring Stroger’s still warm, almost honeyed voice that lends the authority and presence of his 91 years.

He pulls it all together at the end with his own track as some Hammond B3 walks in the closer, “That’s My Name” — “You can call me Bob Stroger, you can call me anything you choose, but my real name is the blues…… I am the blues…”

It’s a shame we had to wait so long to put Stroger out front with his classy, classic blues vocals, but this is an excellent set of good old-fashioned blues from one of its oldest living practitioners. It’s also a tribute to the universality of the music that a Brazilian blues combo seals this real deal.

Here’s a short live take of one of the album tracks, “Pretty Girl”

Track list:

01 What Goes On in the Dark 3:49 (H.PARKER JR.)
02 Just A Bad Boy 3:19 (EDDIE TAYLOR)
03 CC Rider 4:19 (MA RAINEY)
04 I’m A Busy Man 4:34 (ROBERT STROGER)
05 Come On Home 3:44 (ROBERT STROGER)
06 Move to the Outskirts of Town 5:32 (CASEY BILL)
07 Keep Your Hands Off Her 3:25 (JAY McSHANN)
08 Something Strange 3:21 (ROBERT STROGER)
09 Stranded in St. Louis 4:55 (H. PARKER JR.)
10 Pretty Girls 3:05 (EUGENE CHURCH)
11 Talk to Me Mama 4:07 (ROBERT STROGER)
12 Just A Dream 4:54 (BIG BILL BROONZY)
13 That’s My Name 4:18 (ROBERT STROGER)

Libation note: This review was, of course, inspired by this great music, but partially fueled by some excellent Old Grand-Dad, laced with a lovin’ spoonful of Benedectine.

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