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CD REVIEW -- Linsey Alexander
GLT blues radio

LINSEY ALEXANDER

Two Cats

Delmark

Linsey Alexander  CD

By Robin Zimmerman

As one of the last few bluesmen who has “come up” from Mississippi and emigrated to Chicago, Linsey Alexander commands respect. But, he’s also made his mark in other ways. Alexander has played with everyone from B.B. King and Bobby Rush to Magic Slim and other big names.

A longtime fixture at North Side blues clubs like Kingston Mines and Blue Chicago, Alexander has helped spread the Chicago blues gospel to tourists from all over the world. As the Windy City’s own “Hoochie Man,” Alexander turns in electrifying live performances that blend the best of blues, funk, soul and R & B. With his gritty vocal delivery, often punctuated by spoken word, Alexander has been one of the city’s most popular performers since he came on the scene in 1959.

While Alexander certainly possesses an impressive blues resume, his songwriting skills stand as one of his signature accomplishments. His ability to turn a phrase are front and center on his Delmark release, Two Cats.  But, Alexander is no one-trick pony as he has serious guitar skills, too. 

Two Cats is Alexander’s third collaboration with Delmark. Before signing with this iconic local label, the enterprising “Hoochie Man” hustled and hawked his own homemade CDs at his shows. Fortunately for those who didn’t get an Alexander original, Delmark has reprised several tracks on “Two Cats.”

The collaboration between this landmark label and local fan favorite works on many levels. Both of his previous Delmark releases, Been There, Done That and Come Back Baby were very well received.

Delmark has also helped assemble a brilliant cast of musicians, including an impressive horn section, that are perfectly suited to Alexander’s musical style. Two Cats was produced by Alexander and Steve Wagner.

The horns are right out of the gate as the first track, “I’m Not Your Problem,” features a Stax-style R & B groove that’s perfect for Alexander’s somewhat world-weary delivery. Kenny Anderson is credited with playing trumpet and crafting the horn arrangements for Hank Ford (tenor sax) and Norman Palm (trombone).

Anthony Palmer's guitar provides the perfect counterpart to Alexander's sizzling solo work. They are joined by EG McDaniel who plays a solid bass throughout the duration of the album. Breezy Rodio steps in to play guitar on the title track as well as “Comb Over Blues.”

Romp is the operative word on “Where Did You Take Your Clothes Off?” Featuring a Buddy Guy style guitar riff, Alexander then rips into the woman who did him wrong. Paul Hanover’s magnificently mournful harp work is perfectly timed to highlight every one of Alexander’s grievances.

          “That Ain’t Right” follows a similar theme with Alexander skillfully using spoken word to enunciate his take on immortal blues lines like “let you live in a penthouse/ you said it was a shack/ and gave you seven children/ now you want to give them back.”  

Despite its mournful title, the next track, “Why I Sing the Blues” is a bouncy number, which features some fine rhythms by keyboardist Roosevelt Purifoy on piano and Bryant Parker on drums.

The old “blues” laws certainly could apply to the racy title track “Two Cats.”  Here, the Hoochie Man lives up to his name with a lascivious blend of double entendre lines. However, the musicians keep it clean with stellar performances on every level. James Wilson comes on to play drums behind Alexander’s cat tale.

Alexander’s lyrics range from risqué to humorously topical on the next track. On this cut, he laments the fact that he lives with a “Facebook Woman” and only sees an “Apple, Macintosh and PC” on the dinner table. But, Alexander literally has the last word as he plans on leaving her for the older women he can troll on “MySpace!”

Alexander’s unlucky-in-love laments continues with, “I’m in Love with a Woman.” On this track, Alexander finds himself fancying a woman “who has a woman, too.”  Again, Alexander and the band don’t miss a beat on the musical front.

The band then segues into a soulful “Til I Kissed You,” which features Alexander conjuring up visions of Isaac Hayes with his deep and hypnotic vocal delivery. This track is brought back at the end of Two Cats, with J. Parker coming in as a guest rapper on “The Kiss Revisited.”  

After more slow grooves and smooth harp on “How Could You Do Me Like You Do,” Alexander slides into an entirely different topic. His “Reefer and Blow” is a cautionary tale about yet another love interest making him the fall guy after smoking weed and “tooting cocaine.”  Meanwhile, Purifoy is busy laying down some really arresting piano lines!

Following the blues-rock beat of “Thinking About Me,” Alexander moves on to the many ways he plans on living right “Starting Monday.” This track will strike a chord with those who resolve to do better after a weekend bender. 

Alexander tears into the state of the union with his “Comb Over Blues.” Loosely based on “Eisenhower Blues,” he sings about “Twitter makes me jitter, what we gonna do?” He wraps up with spoken word about “plans as big as my hands!”

Alexander and Delmark should be given a big hand for their collaboration on Two Cats. This new release showcases Alexander’s musicianship as well as his ability to keep blues relevant by penning topical material. In this era of pre-fabricated musical tracks and predictable song lyrics, Alexander stands out as a true blues original.

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