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Blue's combo of rock, jazz demands you dance

By Buddy Blue

Clarence Records: 1999

This review first appeared in the January 1, 2000 edition of the American Reporter.

San Diego's Buddy Blue is nothing if not a reflection of his musical influences. Fortunately for the rest of us, his talents are every bit as solid as his musical taste.

So what we get on Blue's latest album, the self-released "Dipsomania!", is a polished, soulful amalgam of the swing, blues and jazz he grew up listening to in the '60s, with a pinch of rock 'n' roll and even some country tossed in. It ranges from the pure acoustic blues of "What Is it That Tastes Like Gravy?" to the straight-ahead jazz of "Monk Side Story" to the fun and goofy Leon Redbone-styled Tin Pan Alley of "That Yodelin' Hateful Rag."

The best song on the album – the opening track, "Talkin' Woman" – is also one of the best yet to come from Blue's pen. It's got as catchy a melody as he's ever written, a pop-oriented radio-friendly arrangement, and some great solos from Blue and the band. If this were a just world, "Talkin' Woman" would be all over the radio.

The overall approach to "Dipsomania!" is a bit more jazz-oriented than 1997's "Greasy Jass," which was in the vein of a Louis Jordan-styled jump blues outing. Still, no one will ever confuse a Buddy Blue album with dry, chamber jazz – there's plenty of electricity and pop here. Blue himself remains one of the more imaginative guitarists playing today – he more than holds his own against the infinitely better known Dave Alvin and Billy Zoom, who sit in on a few tracks. The K.C.-influenced horn charts by trumpeter Sweetlips Mysterioso give the two-man horn section (Patrick Weil plays reeds) the sound of a much larger combo, while continuously swinging like crazy. And Romy Kaye's big-as-all-outdoors vocals on four tracks have the kind of power generally associated with regional utilities.

Clearly, this isn't the kind of jazz one wears a suit and tie to hear – this is dancin' music, the kind of energetic swing that demands homage from the feet.

Underpinning everything here is Blue's songwriting. There's really no one to compare him to, no other contemporary songwriter whose material covers so much territory. And it's not as if he has a country song here, a blues song there, with swing and jazz tunes accompanying them. Every song includes most of the above influences – might be Romy Kaye's sultry chanteuse singing riding alongside a Southside Chicago guitar solo, a Basie-tight horn riff laid over top a pure country bass line.

Finally, Blue continues to grow and improve as a vocalist. Always an impassioned singer, Blue is developing a distinctive inflection that lends his performances that storytelling quality that marks the very best.

The result of all the above is a listenable, danceable – and, well, fun - slice of American music.