Blues Stains On My Hands reviewed by Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association Blues Notes August 2012
It has been way too long since we last had a full album of songs from The Norman Sylvester Band. Nine years to be exact. That was when he put out the Family Affair recording. But let’s say that our long drought of no music from The Boogie Cat has finally been resolved with the release of Blues Stains On My Hands and it just may be the best recording of his career. Filled with catchy lyrics, super guitar work, splendid backing vocals and a band that just kicks it from the get go.
Norman has been putting this one together for some time. He gave us a little teaser about a year ago when he released a two-song EP with “Please Lie To Me” and the ever popular “Fine As Frog Hair” (Have you ever seen hair on a frog? Must be pretty fine stuff if it cannot be seen.). That created the itch for fans who begged for more. He opens the new CD with “Outsource At The Top,” a tune that befits the times as he comments about the 1% growing to fat and need to learn to share; if you rob the bank you go to jail, but if the bank robs you they’re too big to fail. That is followed by the title track with slow blues guitar riffs, harmonica from Bill Rhoades and perfectly blended vocals from Norman with Lenanne Sylvester-Miller, LaRhonda Steel and Sarah Billings. “Blues In Control” has a nice Delta styled guitar line. “Hip Hop Mama” offers the story of a bluesman who marries his girl of his dreams though she would prefer listening to Hip Hop to any other form of music. Rainbow Noise provides the rap in the middle of the song. “Bad Weather” is Norman’s take on Hurricane Katrina; a soulful tale asking the question how can a man leave the place he has always called home and have to start all over again? “S-E-N-D” is a warning to those who write e-mail messages filled with gossip and second hand information. Better watch what you send. “Senior Moments” is a funky piece relaying how with age comes memory losses. It is kind of reminiscent of his older song “Honey Do List” with Norman’s sly sense of humor coming through his lyrics. For lovers of down in alley, gut bucket blues, the track you want to hear is “If You Didn’t Want Me To Have The Blues.” Biting guitar licks and beautiful piano from Janice Scroggins. Can the theme of this number be anymore the source of the blues? “If you didn’t want me to have the blues, why did you say I do?” Ouch!!
One thing that can never be denied regarding The Norman Sylvester Band is that the musicians are the quintessential blues ensemble. The band’s long time bassist Rob Shoemaker never fails to be in the pocket, and Rob’s son Paul Shoemaker grew up hearing the band developing into a natural fit in the rhythm section. Frankie Redding is also on hand on keys and one of Portland’s finest sax players Renato Caranto blows some meaningful notes that help carry the impact of the music.
Is nine years too long to wait for new music? Not when the finished product is as fine as Blues Stains On My Hands. It’s “fine as frog hair,” and as we now know, that’s mighty fine!
Total Time: 47:25
Outsource At The Top / Blues Stains On My Hands / Blues Is In Control / Bad Weather / Fine As Frog Hair / If You Didn’t Want Me To Have The Blues / Hip Hop Mama / Please Lie To Me / S-E-N-D / Senior Moments
I couldn’t be happier in having chosen Norman Sylvester for my corporate party last month. First and foremost, the music was amazing, we had computer geeks up dancing (which takes a bit of effort), and his musical selection really bridged the generations that we had in attendance. Everyone had a great time! Secondly, Norm was an absolute pleasure to work with behind the scenes to set things up, and his offer to allow one of our guests to use his guitar to play a warm-up set was extremely generous. If you have an event that needs a bit of sparkle, please make sure to call Norman!!
Lara J. Kisielewska
President, Xand Marketing
New York, NY
December 28, 2009