Summertime Blues Band
-I Could'a Been-

Although it took over twenty-five years of playing before the members of Warsaw's Summertime Blues Band brought their collective talents together, when they did they knew the result was instant magic. When the decision was made to record their solid Chicago-based blues originals, the wisdom of their years proved itself by deciding to do things right (the fact that the members were advanced enough in their careers that they could afford the best didn't hurt either). The steady ear of Tim Bushong, professional art direction, a genuine barcode, pressed and screen printed CDs, and artwork not printed on a borrowed Lexmark inkjet printer all lend themselves to making I Could'a Been an exceptionally professional release.

But all the money in the world can't cover up for poorly written and sloppily played songs. As luck would have it, Summertime Blues Band sidestepped both of these errors by recording twelve varied and creative originals with the utmost style and panache. The lead vocals are split with nearly surgical precision between Zeek Bailey, Bill Gieras and Ted Carter (the rumor is Bill Kolter has a fine voice that is remarkably ill suited for blues), which adds yet another layer of tonal and stylistic variety. For even more diversity, the songwriting duties are also shared and since the collective influences span from metal to funk to classic rock to Chicago blues, even those who normally yawn at the thought of blues music will find a cornucopia of delights to entertain their degenerating brain.

The first single tearing up the electric blues charts is "Medicated Woman", a humorous commentary on societies increasing dependency on pharmaceuticals of all types, set against an upbeat 50s-influenced blues shuffle. The title track takes a classic blues rhythm and adds some Muddy Waters to create the story of a man looking regretfully back on life. Things get funky with the amusing "High Maintenance Woman" with not one but three amazing solos compliments of the lead guitar, bass, and harmonica. Melodic and well arranged, "Make These Blues Go Away" is a perfect slow dance song with a faraway country blues feeling, unusual (for blues) chord progressions, and some classy harmonica work. "Trouble" is a relentless blues rocker that opens with some scorching, overdriven guitar work and "Slippin' Out Of Town" effectively mixes two songs, a jangly, light love song and a heavier R&B grinder, into yet another example of the expansive songwriting contained on this disc. The final track, "Chaindawg Blues" is told from the point of view of a dog eternally chained just out of reach of those tempting female dogs. This classic slow blues song is augmented by howling harmonica and some intense guitar solos.

With a rhythm section that moves as fluidly as a well-crafted orthopedic ball and socket joint, Summertime Blues Band plays such a skillful set that even those who don't consider themselves blues connoisseurs won't have a chance to get bored. The band loves playing and such enthusiasm shines through clearly on this collection of homegrown, solid originals. If for some reason you can't find this CD locally, stop by and they'll point the way.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, January 2002.