BB and the Blues Shacks from Hildesheim. The ‘BB’ could easily stand for ‘Blues Brothers’ since the Band is fronted by Michael (Harmonica) and Andreas (guitar) Arlt and even though they might not be quite as old a touring outfit as Mr BB King they have just celebrated their 25th anniversary as a band and released a brand new CD called Businessmen
Anyone who survives the music business that long has to be doing something right and whilst the Band won’t win any prizes for ingenuity, they do a fine job of keeping the authentic electric Blues sound very much alive. Theirs is a 40’s/50’s style that encompasses Delta and Chicago Blues and is based largely on self-compositions – although you’d swear these were originals from the likes of Little Walter and BB King himself.
The opener starts with a swagger reminiscent of those other Blues Brothers Jake and Elwood. The horn section show instantly why they are called the ‘No Blow, No Show’ Horns and it’s clear that everyone knows their place and plays what they know. These are good musicians who know their music.
Throughout the disc you’re aware that you’ve heard the tune somewhere before and as with ‘Gimme This, Gimme That’ you find yourself thinking it’s a remake – in this case of something by Little Walter, since Michael Arlt’s harp solo is so on the ball in it’s harsh, honking, Walter sound. The same, if not more so, is true of ‘Pardon Me’ with it’s chug-along ‘Further On Up The Road’ style melody driven by Arlt’s harp again, but this time with some tasty bar-room Blues piano from Denis Kroekstadt.
Other tracks, like ‘Businessman’ sound straight out of the early 60’s beat era, or ‘Green Eye’ that has shades of Sam Cooke. The lyrics are often bright and witty: I love the line “Your prejudice is bigger than the China Wall” from ‘Pardon Me’. There’s a tongue in cheek about the music, Where BB King was ‘paying the cost to be the Boss’ these BB’s are singing ‘I Overpaid My Dues’ . But always there’s clearly a love and respect for it too.. . ‘Blues Shadow’ could be an out-take from an early Robert Cray disc and ‘Goodbye Everybody’ leaves me expecting to hear the words “BB King is back in town!” at any moment.
In short, this disc won’t tear up any trees or create new musical milestones. It does serve as a reminder though that sometimes it’s as important to preserve the styles we already have as it is to create new ones. A disc to put on in the car on a long journey – maybe on the way to a live gig. If that gig itself was by BB and the Blues Shacks it would be worth a long drive to get to and you’d be sure of some jiving good time music to stretch those stiff traveling joints when you danced later.