Roadhouse Album Reviews: Mike Guldin pours pure enjoyment into “Tumblin’,” plus a bonus, “B-Side of My Life” from the Jon Spear Band

Mike Guldin — “Tumblin'” — Blue Heart Records

If I had to pick one word to describe the rollicking music of Mike Guldin on his latest fine album, “Tumblin’,” it would be “a lot of fun.” (I know, I know, that’s four words. But there’s just no counting out this kind of enjoyment!)

This Bucks County, Pa., singer/songwriter, guitar man has been riding his enthusiastic brand of bluesy and rootsy music for 45 years. He and his band of Philadelphia sidekicks have garnered a pair of appearances at the International Blues Challenge, plus decades of appearances in clubs, concerts and festivals.

Sitting in here are some more Philly area artists — Mikey Junior, Roger Girke, Will Hodgson, Craig Thatcher and Kevin Vannoy, plus some stellar guests, including Kevin McKendree, James Pennebaker, Lewis Stephens and Luis Mora.

Put them all together, and they produce this rousing roadhouse set of 13 crisp originals and a pair of well-chosen covers. Their music roams a musical road with many on-ramps — country, blues, swing, southern rock, all with a little Bucks County swamp tossed in.

The title track opens things up, and it’s a pleasantly unusual choice — a swinging instrumental that rocks you into the rest of the album with a rhythmic roll. And next is “Sad and Lonely,” with honky-tonk piano from McKendree that sounds like anything but its title.

Another original, “Twisted Tail,” follows, with Mikey Junior digging into harp and vocals with this tale of the Philly nightspot, where, purely by coincidence, you have often hear Mikey at work. “Alabama Pines” offers hints of southern comfort with some fine pedal steel from Pennebaker.

There is much more, all in the same eclectic vein, if that’s possible, all designed for maximum listening and dancing pleasure. No doubt because of all this original style, Guldin has chosen to cover only two songs, but has chosen wisely.

Big Bill Broonzy’s classic “Key to the Highway” road ode is one of those songs that to me has always defined the essence of the blues. The guys give it a great roadhouse sound here — Guldin growls the vocals and Mikey Jr, romps midway with some sharp harp. The other cover is another classic, from Taj Mahal, “She Caught the Katy,” that gets more of a southern rock treatment, with snaky slide guitar from Thatcher. Guldin makes each his own.

By the way, this thoroughly enjoyable album has been out for almost three months, so I’m a little late to this party. But you shouldn’t be. Enjoy it soon.

Another look back: Jon Spear Band

Before I get to the track list and sample of “”Tumblin’,” here’s a quick bite on another album from too many months ago that I should pass along:

Jon Spear Band – “B-Side of My Life” – Self-Release

The B-side, as I’m sure all you 45rpm collectors remember, is the side of the unknown, but still possibly great, song backing up the expected hit. Jon Spear turns that idea on its head with an excellent and eclectic collection of his work, “B-Side of My Life.” He fills it with often bluesy, sometimes rocking, thoughtfully mellow and almost always kind of quirky music. He’s an excellent performer; check him out.

Here’s the title track, “Tumblin’ “

Tracklist, from the album cover:

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