Thursday, July 3, 2014

Mr. Stress. Stress Relief.

Mr. Stress.  Stress Relief.
Pal ‘O Mine Records, 2014.  4 CD set.  Mr. Stress:

Okay, kids, sit back and listen to old Uncle Wazoo tell you an amazing story.  Bill Miller, aka Mr. Stress, has been a part of the Northeast Ohio blues scene since the 1960s.  He started the Mr. Stress Blues Band, which went strong, with various lineups, for decades.  He influenced dozens of musicians and entertained thousands of fans.  However, Mr. Stress, now in his 70s, fell on hard times.  He had a stroke, lost his home, and with no family, found himself about as down and out as one can be.  Enter Mr. Colin Dussault, longtime friend and musical colleague, who, with the help of other folks (it’s all in the accompanying booklet), got him both medical help and financial assistance.  Dussault is raising money to continue this assistance, and this 4-CD set, Stress Relief, is a part of that.  Dussault put out the call for tracks to be donated to this set, and the response was astounding.  More than 58 artists have contributed old songs, recent songs, unreleased tracks, 70 in all.  This list is Who’s Who of Northeast Ohio blues (and considerably beyond).  Needless to say, although the set is attributed to Mr. Stress, and he’s the focus, he’s hardly the only artist here.

How the hell do I describe this monster?  Most of the artists contributed one track, but Mr. Stress himself is represented by several from his own band (one unreleased), and a couple more from when he worked with the Colin Dussault Blues Project.  Just about every blues artist I can think of, and some I’ve never heard of, have something here.  There’s a Lockwood tune, a Wallace Coleman song, an Alan Greene Band track, and the list goes on and on, with Austin “Walkin’” Cane, Travis Haddix, Richie Green, Blue Lunch, and so many others.  They’re heavy on Disc 1, but also strewn throughout.  This is nothing short of the biggest compilation of Northeast Ohio blues ever put together (that I know of).  

But as they say on the infomercials, “Wait, there’s more!”  There are plenty of artists who aren’t blues folks who also contributed.  Hillbilly Idol, Brigid’s Cross, Ernie Krivda, Michael Stanley, Carlos Jones, Cats on Holiday, again the list goes on.  About the only genres missing are polka and heavy metal (well, maybe Granicus qualifies).  What Dussault never explains in his notes is how in the world he got tracks from bands that haven’t existed for decades.  The Tree Stumps?  The Blackwelles?  Audi-Badoo?  This stuff was released on 45s back in the 60s.  Some of it is garage rock, and fits the bill nicely.  I really like “The Mover,” by the Missing Lynx, another lost band.  Most of these are found on Disc 2, along with songs by the Armstrong Bearcats, Mary Martin & the Tuna Band, Bob Gatewood, and lots of others.

Mr. Stress in the old days
I must admit, I am less familiar with some of the artists on Discs 3 and 4, although there are major exceptions.  I’m not sure how Dussault decided on the organization of the set, but you can’t just skip a CD over, because you will miss great stuff.  Disc 3 has 15-60-75 The Numbers Band, Michael Stanley, Jim Ballard, Brent Kirby & the Lost Fortunes, and Carlos Jones & the Plus Band.  Disc 4 has Travis Haddix, Richie Green, and “Amazing Grace,” played as the closer by Pet Cavano.  But don’t miss the rare track by Granicus, from back in the 70s, Jeff Sherman singing “Lonely Avenue,” and Denny Carlton singing “Indians Blues” on Disc 3.  The last disc has its own treasures, with tracks by Aces & Eights, The Stokes Brothers, and Bill Lestock.  I find myself frustrated, not being able to tell you everything here, and I’m sorry that I missed some folks.  Needless to say, this is a great set of music, and although not every track will suit every taste, the vast majority are highly satisfying.

I think I got carpal tunnel syndrome just typing in all the artists in this 4-disc set.  Surely you don’t expect me to list the tracks too?  This is a must-have set for blues fans, and nearly anybody who likes Northeast Ohio music.  And giving Mr. Stress some relief is a worthy cause for a great musician.  Colin Dussault has done remarkable work in putting this together. The set is $30, plus $5 for shipping, and comes in a DVD-sized container.  Hell, you spend more on beer.  

Personnel:  Mr. Stress Blues Band, Colin Dussault’s Blues Project, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Wallace Coleman, The Alan Greene Band, Alex Bevan, Jeff Varga, Brigid’s Cross, Hillbilly Idol, Blue Lunch, Joe Bell & the Swing Lizards, Austin “Walkin’” Cane, Gangsters of Blues, I-Tal, Robert Leonard, Becky Boyd, Crazy Marvin, The Armstrong Bearcats, The Tree Stumps ‘66, and ‘68, The Blackwelles, Audi-Badoo, The Missing Lynx, Mike Hay & Loren Schulte, David Krauss with The Blues Drivers, Kristine Jackson, Fred Tobey, Mary Martin & the Tuna Band, Cats on Holiday, Rich Spina, The Reese Daily Band, Bob Gatewood, Eroc & Friends, The Mighty Tigues, Greg Hurd, The Burnt River Band, Moko Bovo, Hollywood Slim, Michael Stanley, Brent Kirby & the Lost Fortunes, Morrison & McCarthy, 15-60-75 The Numbers Band, Carlos Jones & the Plus Band, Jeff Sherman, Jim Ballard, Charlie Wiener & the Icons of Perseverance, Denny Carleton, Granicus featuring Woody Leffel, Ray Fogg, Billy Sullivan, Travis “Moonchild” Haddix, Aces & Eights, Copperfoot, JiMiller Band, Richie Green, The Ida Red Band, Colin Dussault’s Acoustic Side Project, Alan Leatherwood, Blues Chronicles, Frankie Starr, Ernie Krivda/Kenny Davis Jazz Quintet, Easy Street, The Bad Boys of Blues, The Stokes Brothers, Bill Lestock, Mossy Moran, Pete Cavano.

The Grand Wazoo
Colin Dussault with Mr. Stress, recently

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