Friday, May 2, 2014


Easy-going, funky and fun, Toronto's Raoul and The Big Time take a little jump blues, some Chicago, and add a jazzy sophistication, like a twist of Mose Allison. Eight vocals and four instrumentals move from uptempo harp blowers (Raoul's ax), to some sad, shaggy-dog stories, hurt by love, and to add insult to injury, the Motor Vehicle office too. Raoul has a good story-telling style, and everybody is playing it cool, no showboating or overplaying, just high quality licks and material.

Raoul can write 'em, and he can pick 'em too, with four great covers among the tunes. Calling on current members of Mavis Staples' band for support, they lay into the Staple Singers' Why Am I Treated So Bad, with a deep soul groove. The funk comes back for Allan Toussaint's Get Out Of My Life Woman, and Raoul does a fine take on Bobby "Blue" Bland's Someday. What I like about him as a singer is his phrasing; he punches the right words, stretches the right notes, picking up on the syncopation, becoming an important instrument in the whole. It's especially effective on the jump number Spoken For, which also features tasty guitar runs from guest Junior Watson on guitar.

There's plenty of solid harp throughout as well, especially on the instrumentals. Curtis Salgado shows up for a showdown, the pair trading harmonica solos all through the cut Curtis Charm. The guests don't overshadow the tunes though; for once, all the folks invited contribute to solid numbers, rather than simply add weight to the liner notes. This is a great mix of styles, moods and rhythms, that leaves you with quite a joyous feeling.

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