Night Wax Records, 2012. Cletus Black: http://www.cletusblack.com/
What do you say about best-of releases? For more than two decades, Black has been plying Northeast Ohio with some seriously good bluesy rock music, in the vein of J. J. Cale--low key, low voice, swampy, slightly menacing, and very satisfying. I have enjoyed several of his albums, especially Black Ice and Shades of Black, but haven’t heard them all. This latest release collects some tracks from many of his previous dozen or so albums (none from his covers album, The Big Cover Up, released in 2011). All the songs are his own, and it’s on his own music where he shines brightest.
Black subtitles this CD The Best of Cletus Black on his website, but that doesn’t show up anywhere on the booklet or CD. But these 19 tracks are certainly a fine sample of his best work. He’s chosen at least one song from most of his albums, but relies heavily on One More Card to Play and Black Ice, with three each, with one or two from the others. He even pulls two tunes from his earlier compilation of 1980s material, Shades of Black. I can sense a change in his voice over the years (we all change), and more recently he has had a lighter touch, although he’s still strong. His guitar hasn’t changed, and still provides a fine accompaniment. Black names a boatload of accompanying musicians who have worked with him over the years, including the members of his current band, the Cletus Black Revue. This album was remixed by Dave Morrison, the harmonic player in the Revue, who’s worked with Doc Dreyfuss, and Aces & Eights.
The songs range from a couple of rave-ups ("Night Train" for example), to a couple of ballads, but most fall somewhere in-between, sort of a mid-tempo shuffle. Some are a bit more rockabilly in style, with occasional touches of swamp rock, and even New Orleans. There’s not a clinker in the batch, and I tend to think of this as music to drive down the road with. A couple of the songs are alternate versions or mixes, and one tune, “Depot Road,” was never released until now. If you want to get a full taste of this fine musician, this CD is a great place to start.
Personnel: Cletus Black (vocals, guitar), and about 35 other people on various tracks.
Tracks: Baby Hi, Don’t Push the River, BYO Blues, He’s Got a Harley, Cocaine Trail, Depot Road, No Moon Night, Shuffle that Deck, It’s Hard to Rock, Hold on Tight, I’m Ready, Woman Woman, Ocean Drive, Graveyard Shift, Clothesline Blues, Tennessee Baby, Creole Witch, Night Train, Throwing Aces.