Blues Bytes reviews Double Standards

Mick Kolassa’s latest release is Double Standards (Swing Suit Records), a baker’s dozen classic blues songs performed by Kolassa and a few of his friends, including such blues luminaries as Sugaray Rayford, Heather Crosse, Victor Wainwright, Annika Chambers, Tas Cru, Tullie Brae, Eric Hughes, Erica Brown, Patti Parks, David Dunavent, Gracie Curran, and Jeff Jensen. It’s a warm and intimate, seemingly loose affair covering a wide range of blues styles.

Rayford joins Kolassa for a faithful reading of the Howlin’ Wolf-associated “300 Pounds of Heavenly Joy,” though Willie Dixon’s classic is updated to 600 pounds for this version. Kolassa and Crosse collaborate on a sultry version of another Dixon tune, “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” and he and Wainwright have a good time with Tampa Red’s “It’s Tight Like That” before Annika Chambers sits in for a smoky reading of the Peggy Lee standard “Fever.”

Kolassa and Cru give “Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out,” a nice old fashioned feel, thanks in part to Alice Hasan’s violin and Jeremy Powell’s piano, and Tullie Brae joins Kolassa for a sweaty take on B.B. King’s “Rock Me.” Memphis harpmaster Eric Hughes and Kolassa do a fine job on Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key To The Highway,” and another Willie Dixon/Howlin’ Wolf effort, “Spoonful,” gets a jazzy reworking with Kolassa and Erica Brown swapping verses. Another Tampa Red song, “It Hurts Me Too,” is ably handled by Kolassa and Patti Parks.

Singer/guitarist David Dunavent is featured on a sizzling version of the Louis Jordan classic, “Early In The Morning,” and Gracie Curran teams with Kolassa for a funky read on another Tampa Red hit, “Don’t You Lie To Me (Evil).” The talented Jeff Jensen, who plays guitar on all of the tracks, gets a turn behind the mic with Kolassa for “Outside Woman Blues,” and the entire ensemble gets together for the closer, an entertaining take on “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.”

Kolassa plays guitar on three tracks, with Jensen taking the lion’s share of guitar work along with Colin John and Dunavent, who each guest on one track. The rest of the band includes Hasan (violin), Powell(piano), Hughes (harmonica), Bill Ruffino (bass), James Cunningham (drums), and Chris Stephenson (organ).

Double Standards is an excellent set of blues classics lovingly rendered by some of the current scene’s finest artists. As with all other Mick Kolassa releases, the proceeds from the album will go the Blues Foundation’s HART Fund and Generation Blues programs — a worthy cause if there ever was one, plus you get a fantastic set of blues while you’re at it.

~Graham Clarke, Blues Bytes