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CD REVIEW -- Frank Raven
GLT blues radio

FRANK RAVEN

Lucky Cat

Raven Records

Frank Raven Lucky Cat CD

By Pierre Lacocque

1.  Lucky Cat, 3:18; 2.  Mr. Blues, 4:56;

3.  Blues Confusion, 3:14; 4.  The Jinx Is On Me, 3:26; 5.  Don’t Look Back, 4:10; 6.  My Luck Done Changed, 3:51; 7.  I Wake Up Screamin’, 6:08;

8. Poor Me, 3:05; 9.  Bloody Williamson Blues, 3:51; 10.  Sweet Tooth, 3:30;

Total Time: 40:00

Produced, Mixed and Recorded by Jay O’Rourke

Assistant Engineer: Teddy Thornhill

Mastering: Mike Tholen

Musicians:

Frank Raven – Harmonica, Vocals

Jay O’Rourke – Guitar, Bass, Vocals

Lee D’Budda – Guitar

This harp-driven CD delivers an entertaining, high octane musical experience. All songs are written by the prolific Frank Raven. Raven has been around the Chicago area for decades, having played harmonica in many bands either as a member/sideman or leading his own group (Bohemia, Slammin' Watusis, The Blue Watusis, the Frank Raven Band, Raven Desmond Songs, The Lucky 3 Blues Band, and Jay O'Rourke & Friends).

 

The Slammin’ Watusis were signed to CBS/Epic and released their debut LP in 1988, followed by a sophomore release the following year. Although the band toured with the likes of Living Colour and Red Hot Chili Peppers, they always included some blues in their live sets. The Slammin’ Watusis eventually morphed into the Blue Watusis with the addition of Jim Desmond. The Blue Watusis served as one of the house bands at Buddy Guy’s original club in the early ‘90s and got to open for Junior Wells, which Raven cites as a career highlight. Throughout his lengthy career with his various bands, Raven has stayed prolific, with multiple albums of original songs to his credit.

 

What is striking about Frank’s singing and harmonica style is that he means what he delivers. He is quite accomplished in both mediums. He pushes his vocals and harp to the hilt, no holds barred. While he also plays guitar and saxophone, he only performs on the chromatic and diatonic harmonicas on this set.

 

The 10 songs offer a variety of musical genres, from Chicago style shuffles and lumps, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley to Rockabilly and 1950s Rock & Roll. There is no extra fluff to these songs, just straight from the heart.

 

In reading interviews with him, Raven comments that he was a big admirer of Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers and Ricky Nelson in his youth. Once he hit his teens, his older friends turned him onto to Muddy Waters. Soon he was hanging around the folk-blues scene in Old Town and University of Chicago. He learned to play blues harp and saxophone and began gigging and jamming at South Side haunts such as the Checkerboard Lounge.

 

While the CD is short in duration – 40 minutes long – I did not feel that it was a hindrance. My favorite track is the blues minor tune “I Wake Up Screamin’”. The music here brings a perfect mood setting. And the lyrics are poignant.

 

Both on the chromatic and diatonic harmonicas Raven favors the single note approach, from light to heavy amplification. He has a personal style which adds exciting sparks to this CD.  

 

As a songwriter he particularly uses background vocals to wonderful effect (on “Lucky Cat” and “My Luck Done Changed,” for example).

 

If you have heard of Frank Raven before, you know what you are going to get: passionate and insightful lyrics. For those who have not, here is your chance to appreciate his music. Hopefully there will be plenty more recordings and song writings to come from this veteran of the blues! I certainly enjoyed this CD.

For info or to buy the CD:

www.frankravenmusic.com

www.cdbaby.com/frankraven

About the Author: Pierre Lacocque is the band leader/harmonica player/songwriter for Delmark Records artists Mississippi Heat. He was recently inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame.

For info: www.mississippiheat.net

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