ART OF BLUES BILL BUCHMAN STEVE ARVEY the 12 Bar Rag, Suncoast Blues Society, Tampa Bay, FL

Review of the Buchman-Arvey CD, Art of Blues: Steve Arvey and Bill Buchman have been playing traditional gut-thumping, foot-stomping, soul-dragging blues for a long, long time.  And it shows in every rousing cut of this hour-plus collection of winners.  Bookended by “Good Morning Little School Girl” as an opener and “Ain’t Gonna Drink No More Whiskey” as a closer, these guys follow the 3-H style of blues delivery: Hoot, Howl and Holler.  And it’s all done with good humor and authenticity.  Steve and Bill aren’t the only ones to blame for this first-class CD.  Tony Smith’s mouth harp is moaning and cryin’ for mama all the way through.  He’s telling us the pain hurts soooo bad we all want to cry.  Mike Dempsey on bass and drummer Rick Andre share the load with a rock-solid rhythm that ably supports every note, every groan, every cut.  Bill Buchman’s excellent keyboard work provides the ever-melodic and boogie-hued inspiration for everyone else. The album covers blues standards like the opener by Sonny Boy Williamson, and that down and dirty chestnut, “Worried Life Blues” by John Estes. There are also five originals by Bill Buchman and Steve Arvey and they all have that good-time, party-in-the-street, Mardi Gras feel with a hint of witchy swamp music thrown in for seasoning. Steering the whole train, of course, are Steve Arvey’s rollicking, guttural, humorous and gravel-voiced interpretations.  Steve has one of the most flexible and variable voices in the business.  Sometimes you’re not even sure it’s him singing, the style and delivery can be so different from one cut to another.  Since he’s the only one listed for “vocals,” however, the responsibility falls on him.  But he’s got the shoulders and the chops to do it all. Each song in this collection comes from a blues man’s heart.  “I Wanna Stay Sober” is the eternal quest of bluesmen everywhere; a quest usually abandoned after the second drink.  And when ‘love’ is spelt ‘m-i-s-e-r-y’ you know you’re in for some rough times. This is a fabulous album. ‘Nuf said. Russ Heitz, 12 Bar Rag, Tampa Bay - Suncoast Blues Society