Mon Jul 21 15:59:35 EDT 1997
Not the disc mentioned but a fair apprisal of Snooks. The review is not
by me (it is by Mark O'brien from the NY CD Blues team) though I defini-
tely have Mr. Eaglin at the top of my listen-to list all the time. Here
BLACK TOP #1112
I believe the term, "tasty" was coined for understated artistry such as
this -- desirable, palatable, memorable. I believe artistry such as this
requires no less than Snooks Eaglin's particular brand of understatement
-- effortless, subtle, authentic. I believe understatement such as this
can only be -- not become, not be acquired, not be feigned.
And I believe, as an example of tasty, artistic understatement, this disc
is it. There is not a note wasted here. You can hear in his playing that
Snooks Eaglin was a bluesman before he ever touched his first guitar. Such
is his artistry that Snooks lets you feel it just the way he does.
JOSEPHINE / SHOW ME THE WAY BACK HOME / LING TING TONG / AW'SOME FUNK /
I'M NOT ASHAMED / NINE POUND STEEL / ANSWER NOW / SKINNY MINNIE / THRILL
ON THE HILL / YOU AND ME / I WENT TO THE MARDI GRAS / TALK TO ME / MAMA
AND PAPA / GOD WILL TAKE CARE
NY CD Takes:
JOSEPHINE: If this recording were in any way trendy, this arrangement
might be called "minimalist". The intellectual self-absorption of that
term would miss the wonderful irony of this cut entirely, would overlook
the sympathetic interplay and musical subtlety the sparseness of the
arrangement conceals. It would also miss the courageous passion of the
players in allowing their tracks to be recorded and mixed so starkly.
(Snooks sings the last verse over drums only -- no other instrumentation
as a melodic reference point.) There is no place to hide here. One can
only, as the saying goes, play big or stay home. Drummer Herman V. Ernest
III, bassist George Porter, Jr., and the visionary Snooks Eaglin play very
big, on a stripped-bare, martial-edged jump, with enough breathing space
built in to make the listener as much a participant as the players.
SHOW ME THE WAY BACK HOME: With the addition of Sammy Berfect on organ,
this track starts out where the last one left off. Besides the added
fullness, the real difference here is Snooks's guitar-playing. Content to
sit back in the pocket on "Josephine", Snooks flashes out of the mix here
with a surprising assortment of licks, combining both animation and
LING TING TONG: A relaxed rumba rhythm sets the stage for more stylish
picking from Snooks, this time revealing jazzy phrasing and ecstatic
bursts of melody. At the urging of Snooks, David Torkanowsky rips off a
sparkling piano solo.
AW'SOME FUNK: Check out the title. Would Snooks lie? And even if he were
inclined to fool us a little, the irresistible groove put down by Ernest
and Porter wouldn't let him. This is almost five full minutes of
I'M NOT ASHAMED: Snooks is not ashamed to change gears on this track,
covering Don Robey's R&B tune with confident soul and making it his own.
Fred Kemp and Ward Smith on saxes, Steve Howard on trumpet, and Rick
Trolsen on trombone comprise the guest horn section. Snooks takes the
verses, then lets his irrepressible guitar do the rest of the singing.
NINE POUND STEEL: Snooks manages to evoke thoughts of Willie Nelson and
Ray Charles in the gentle melancholy of this ballad, with a heart full of
hurt and a voice full of sweet resignation. Can you imagine Snooks Eaglin
on anyone's list of song-stylists? Are there any more overlooked treasures
than in the world of music?
ANSWER NOW: George Porter and Snooks wrote this instrumental; but it's
made by Sammy Berfect. His organ adds dramatic power to the transitions;
dynamic support to the melodic lines; and a lyrical, sprightly solo.
SKINNY MINNIE: This is Bill Haley's rocking cha-cha, a kind of alternative
"Bonie Maronie". Snooks makes his right hand work overtime on the trills
and accents, then shows more jazzy fluidity in his solo.
THRILL ON THE HILL: Hank Ballard's country/blues gets gospel treatment on
the choruses, chunky twanging from Snooks on the guitar break, a little
church and a little rock-and-roll from Sammy Berfect's organ, and
rollicking barrelhouse from David Torkanowsky's piano.
YOU AND ME: George Porter and Snooks collaborate again, on another
instrumental, this time a slow, minor-key blues. It must be possible to
invest guitar-playing with more soulful emotion than Snooks invests in his
here; but I can't imagine how. His phrasing is so surprisingly unorthodox,
so eloquently conversational, so passionately emotional, you wonder how
they kept this track to six minutes and thirteen seconds. Snooks clearly
had much more to say.
I WENT TO THE MARDI GRAS: Would you be surprised to learn Snooks had a
wonderful time there? Would you be surprised to find his stay in "Nawlins"
inspired tongue-in-cheek lyrics, spicy guitar licks, a saucy horn
arrangement, a street-party sax solo, and a funky rumba rhythm? Of course
TALK TO ME: Sammy Berfect's organ makes this tune, with its golden oldie
feel, sound like Sam the Sham meets the Platters. Snooks, as usual, makes
it sound like an original. This track, like "Nine Pound Steel", makes one
wonder why Snooks isn't better known, either for his guitar-playing or his
singing. He defines soul and authenticity with both.
MAMA AND PAPA: This gently funky, subtly swampy blues, recalls Buddy Guy's
"Mary Had a Little Lamb". A sax solo, as understated as you can imagine,
steals the show in a middle break that would have otherwise belonged to
Snooks's guitar. Adopting two parts in a comic vocal give-and-take, Snooks
plays a brow-beaten married man AND his mother-in-law! Look out! And get
ready for some feel-good fun.
GOD WILL TAKE CARE: A gospel hymn performed by Snooks Eaglin. 'Nuff said.
(Listen to this track twice -- once for the vocal, again for the seamless
If you haven't refreshed your musical palate in a while, if it's been
dulled by gimmicky additives and artificial sweeteners, cleanse it with a
little Snooks Eaglin. His artistry will remind you where the term "soul"
came from; and his inimitable taste will refresh yours.
Reviewed by Mark N. O'Brien
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