STRIKE A DEEP CHORD: Blues Guitars for the Homeless
Justice JR 0003-2 (CD). 1992. Randall Hage Jamail, prod.; various engs. AAD/ADD. TT: 51:52 - 25% of the profits from this recording will be donated to the National Coalition for The Homeless.
This CD contains many fine performances, but what makes it special are the opening and closing cuts. In "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," Dr. John and Odetta create a powerful epic of the down-and-out. In "America the Beautiful," Odetta's spiritual-tinged rendition is counterbalanced by Dr. John's rolling, bluesy piano. Both performances are strongly supported by John Campbell (guitar), Rufus Reid (bass), and Will Calhoun (drums), and captured in startlingly realistic sound. Used as demos, they never fail to induce rapt attention, even in the most raucous places (WCES?). Irresistible.
Copyright 1998 Stereophile Magazine
Blues & Rhythm, April 1993 p 32
This is probably the only way you'll read about John Campbell in B&R. Briefly, John has had some hard experiences in his life and tells a touching story about playing for the homeless in Atlanta. Out of such situations, he set the wheels in motion for this record to be made. All the artists either donated tracks or only accepted their expenses. Justice Records will contribute 25% of its profits to America's National Coalition for the Homeless.
Perhaps in the circumstances it would be inviduous to criticise the music contained here but there are a number of excellent performances to be noted. Ronnie Earl's "Blues After Hours" has more of T-bone's boxy, precise tone to it than composer Pee Wee Crayton's variation. Gatemouth's "Drifter", is a live recording from the 1982 Bern Festival. Brown plays harmonica and guitar solos during the song's near ten-minute duration, aided by his well-rehearsed band of the time. Johnny Copeland also gives a good acount of himslef on a song which he's plainly based around the chords of "House of the Rising Sun."
Apart from appearing with Campbell and Odetta on the songs that top and tail the CD, Dr. John also puts in a rare appearance on guitar for Cousin Joe's "Broke, Raggedy and Hungry," done a la Jimmy Reed. Sue Foley's run through of Earl Hooker's "Guitar Rhumba" is short and snappy. Her lead playing simple but confident.
That leaves the unknowns. Tab Benoit from Louisiana also has an album awaiting release; his two tracks reveal a fluent guitarist and adequate singer who needs a better drummer. Bonamassa was a mere 15 years old when he cut Johnny Winter's "Self-Destructive Blues." He unleashes a copule fo florid solos, but singer Jeff Gordon's heavy-rock posturingis inappropriate in this context. Odetta's singing tends toward melodramatic but "Brother" is otherwise a beautifully judged performance. The same but double goes for "America the Beautiful," an outpouring of patriotic sentiment that fits the project but doesn't travel well. Those interested in the record of the enterprise, should contact: Justice Records, P.O. Box, 980369, Houston, Texas 77098-0369. USA - Neil Slaven
Excerpt from: Some Justice for the homeless/Local company makes a benefit CD by Marty Racine
Houston Chronicle, February 7, 1993, p 10
"Strike a Deep Chord -- Blues Guitars for the Homeless" Various Artists Justice
The homeless don't own home entertainment systems. But a number of them may reap, if not hear, the benefits of this 10-cut CD. Houston's Justice Records is donating a "substantial" portion of the proceeds from the sale of this recording to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Producer Randall Jamail rounded up an impressive list of names for the project, although the "guitars" part is a bit of a misnomer.
Keyboardist/vocalist Dr. John leads on two songs and contributes to a third, while legendary folk-gospel singer Odetta is positively heroic with the closing "America the Beautiful."
And Johnny "Clyde" Copeland "(Ghetto Child)" and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown "(The Drifter)" are perhaps better known for their vocals and band-leading roles than their guitars.
Even the instrumental "Guitar Rhumba" by Austin's Sue Foley and Derek O'Brien (backed by Antones' regulars George Rains on drums and Sarah Brown on bass) is less a guitar meltdown than a short, campy rhumba.
Rather, some of the sublime moments here are provided by little-known but soon-to-be-big guitarist John Campbell, who picks an understated dobro behind Dr. John 's version of "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" and "America the Beautiful." The former tune leads off and is followed by a tasty, lowdown "Blues After Hours," with Ronnie Earl (Roomful of Blues ) on lead guitar.
The third cut, "Bone Pickin"' by Tab Benoit, interrupts the sweet melancholia -- not a bad tune, but unfortunate sequencing.
The rest of the program returns to the pensive mood, except for another interruption, Johnny Winter's "Self-Destructive Blues." Only it's not Beaumont Johnny on guitar but Smokin' Joe Bonamassa and rhythm guitarist Dave Wingfield, who just don't quite pull it off.
Delete those two cuts, and you've got a tasty, wide-ranging, mood-enhancing blues album worthy of support.
(3 and 1/2 stars)
Copyright 1993 Houston Chronicle
Excerpt from: HOUSTON'S Justice Records is breaking new ground by Marty Racine and Rick Mitchell
Houston Chronicle, October 15, 1992, p 3
HOUSTON'S Justice Records is breaking new ground.
In its first two years, it has established itself as a nationally competitive jazz label. Now, it's expanding into alternative pop with the recent signings of Louisiana blues guitarist Tab Benoit, Houston singer-songwriter David Rice and New York acoustic rockers Thrill Cat.
These artists have debut albums scheduled for next year. In the meantime, you can get a taste of Benoit on "Strike a Deep Chord: Blues Guitars for the Homeless," released on Justice this week.
The standout tracks are versions of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" and "America the Beautiful" featuring vocalists Dr. John and Odetta, backed by the rhythm section of guitarist John Campbell , bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Will Calhoun (of Living Colour). The album also includes new or previously unreleased tracks by guitarists Benoit, Ronnie Earl, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Johnny Clyde Copeland, Sue Foley and Derek O'Brien.
David Thompson, co-producer of the album, said the idea of a blues -oriented benefit album for the homeless came from Campbell, who appeared Tuesday at Rockefeller's at a Benson and Hedges Blues and Rhythm concert.
Randall Jamail, the owner of Justice Records, will donate 25 percent of the profits to the National Coalition for the Homeless. The artists, several of whom appeared courtesy of other labels, agreed to nominal fees for their services.
Thompson hopes "Strike a Deep Chord" will establish an identity for Justice beyond jazz, in addition to helping the homeless.
"Our goal is to sell as many as we can," Thompson said. "We're going to be doing massive promotion, with print and TV commercials. We're donating a substantial portion in relation to other benefit albums. We want to write the National Coalition a big check."
Coppyright 1992 Houston Chronicle
Excerpt From: Recordings by Larry Nager
Commercial Appeal, October 16, 1992
Strike a Deep Chord - Blues Guitars For the Homeless - Various - Justice
Finally, a benefit album that sounds as good as its cause. Proceeds from this 10-song collection, chaired by Dr. John and Odetta, go to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Performances range from Ronnie Earl's emotional guitar playing on Pee Wee Crayton's After Hours Blues to Sue Foley's rocking workout on Earl Hooker's Guitar Rhumba. Odetta and Dr. John open the set with the appropriate Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? Other performers on the set include Johnny Copeland, John Campbell, Gatemouth Brown and the Tab Benoit band.
Copyright 1992 Commecial Appeal
Curt Edwards, Columbus Blues Alliance, March/April 1993, p 5
Strike a Deep Chord - Blues Guitars For the Homeless - Various - Justice
This is a thoughtful compilation that includes performances from Dr. John, Odetta, Johnny "Clyde" Copeland, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Sue Foley, Smokin' Joe Bonamassa, Tab Benoit, and Ronnie Earl.
To clue you in on the mood of the thing, two of the songs are "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" and a haunting rendition of "America the Beautiful" by Odetta.
Sue Foley adds a dash of frivolity with "Guitar Rhumba," but most of the 10 songs found here reflect the somber reality of life on the street.
This is good album, and with twenty-five percent of the profits from it going to the National Coalition for the Homeless, buying it will feed your soul in two ways.
The contrast in age of the performers from a very young Sue Foley to the legend of Odetta provides a variety of perspectives on how blues artists regard the homeless, a sort of natural constituency.
For more information on Justice Records, this project, or to order "Strirke a Deep Chord," call 800/533-5878 or 713/520-6669. To write: Justice Records, PO Box 980369, Houston, TX 77098-0369. - Curt Edwards
Copyright 1993 Columbus Blues Alliance
Tab Benoit "Nice and Warm" - Strike a Deep Chord, Blue Suede News, Winter 1993/94, p 34
It seems the title tune on Tab Benoit's CD may have been written especially for the "Strike a Deep Chord" CD, since it's theme tallies with the homeless problem addressed at least by 25% of the proceeds from the latter. Benoit is mostly modern, electric, fuzz distorted guitar blues, but at least the recording was done 'live' in the studio, with the only overdub being the fix of a track where Benoit broke a guitar string. Most of the tunes are original, but Tab also covers Screamin Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You," Howlin Wolf's "Killin Floor," Buddy Guy's "She's Out there Somewhere," Al Jackson Jr.'s "Drowning on Dry Land," and Robert Johnson's "Ramblin on My Mind" (a CD bonus track). Band-wise, it's a four piece with Benoit's vocals, guitar and harmonica supported by bass, drums and Hammond B-3 organ and piano. There is one acoustic turn, thank goodness, and the Johnson tune is done quiet, featuring the piano. Looks like this could become a popular tradition. So many people want to become electric blues guitar heroes any more.
Benoit also contributed another tune from that CD to the second one here, "Bone Pickin." The other artists on the collection are: Odetta and Dr. John (backed by the late John Campbell on National Steel guitar and Dr. John on piano for one of her two tracks - the obvious choice "Brother Can You Spare a Dime", Ronnie Earl, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Dr. john, Jimmy "Clyde" Copeland, Jeff Gordon with Smokin Joe Bonamassa, and Sue Foley. The project was Campbell's idea, let's hope that he's found a home somewhere with Robert Johnson. This is an interesting enough lineup that any fans of compilation CDs should be interested, regardless of the charity connection. Most of the songs have "related" themes, though the instrumentals by Earl and Foley do not exactly. - MB
Copyright 1994 Blue Suede News