Throw away the book' said Byther Smith to the band before they started recording their second set for Black & Tan Records. Don't play with your head, but from the heart? Follow your guts! That's the direction that Byther and the band wanted to explore. Inspired by their eagerness to play, to learn about the blues and their musical creativity, Byther decided to revisit some of the songs he recorded in the past.......
Urban Chicago electric blues is alive and well in the 21st century, and Byther Smith is assuring fans that this style is still full of energy, spirit, and the many topics that make life in the big city both difficult and able to overcome. Smith's electric guitar sound borrows from several sources, but his slightly gruff but endearing, shouted out, distinctive vocal style is all his own. He's another of the many bluesmen originally from Mississippi who headed north for a better life, and has endured the hardships and the thinning of the ranks of the true veterans. He's come out on the other side true to himself without pandering to more R&B flavored commercial pop blues. These live recordings at the Natural Rhythm Social Club on the venerable African-American south side of Chicago has Smith with a solid five-piece band with second guitarist Anthony Palmer, utilizing many of the familiar devices, techniques, and rhythm changes that set bona fide blues apart from other affectations. The funkiest blues "Judge of Honor" is the opener, but then Smith digs in on his cousin J.B. Lenoir's 12 bar classic about his baby "If You Love Me," and keeps the groove going on the repeat two-chord based title track. Adopting a B.B. King solo guitar style, Smith plays his personalized poignant "Hard Times," a talkin', autobiographical "Monticello" about being lonely upon leaving dear ol' Mississippi, offers up a typical Chicago blues "Your Mama's Crazy," singing at the top of his lungs, and does the slow and dirty downhearted "If I Misused Someone" with some outstanding piano from Daryl Coutts. The keyboardist also plays organ on several tracks including the preaching "Give Up My Life for You," with a lyric based on the Biblical tale of Jesus dying for our sins. The performance ends with three classics — a John Lee Hooker styled "So Mean to Me," the Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup mellow down easy evergreen "Rock Me Baby," and Sonny Boy (Rice Miller) Williamson's steady rollin' "Don't Start Me to Talkin'," which is similar to "Rock Me Baby." A DVD of this show is also available with an extra track. Byther Smith consistently delivers, whether in performance or on CD time after time, and should always remain a well-liked and authentic figure of the real blues world.
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