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CD Review -- Quintus McCormick

Quintus McCormick Blues Band

 Hey Jodie!

Delmark Records

Quintus McCormick CD art

By Mike Baum

While it is evident that classic Chicago blues is alive and well in the award-winning music of artists like Nick Moss & the Flip Tops and Lurrie Bell, the case for  Chicago soul blues has not been so clear.  That genre took a hit with the sudden, tragic death of promising young player Chico Banks last year.  Well, I’m here to tell you that Hey Jodie!, the phenomenal, new debut album by Quintus McCormick and his band on Delmark Records, should assure all of us that the Chicago soul blues sound is in good hands.        

Born in Detroit in 1957 and fascinated by music and guitar all of his life, Quintus did not become “anointed” with the blues until about twenty years ago when he was playing in J.W. Williams’ Chi-town Hustlers band while earning his bachelor’s degree in music from Chicago’s Columbia College.  Since that time, Quintus has toured the world playing guitar for the likes of A.C. Reed, James Cotton, Lefty Dizz and Otis Clay. 

Buddy Guy and James Cotton encouraged Quintus to form his own band in the mid-nineties, and they have been a mainstay on the Chicago scene ever since.  His debut album is much deserved and well overdue; Quintus came to the studio chock-full of great original songs which he recorded over a span of only two days back in November 2008.  Delmark Records general manager and producer Steve Wagner has stated that this is the most exciting recording he has worked on in a long time, and I’m confident you’ll agree when you listen to the CD.

Quintus’ Chicago blues connections are apparent by the band backing him on this album, including long-standing Chicago soul blues keyboard man Roosevelt “Mad Hatter” Purifoy, Lovely “JR” Fuller on bass, Jeremiah Thomas on drums, and the famous Chicago Horns, featuring Kenny Anderson on trumpet, Hank Ford on tenor sax, and Willie Henderson on baritone sax.  In addition, Ted Reynolds supplies great harp work throughout the album, and Quintus is backed by the wonderful voices of Roberta Thomas, Gwenyth Hayes, and Jamie Holesha on many songs.

What’s most impressive is that this CD contains 60 minutes of fine music, and 14 of the 15 songs are Quintus originals.  The album kicks off with the melodic title track “Hey Jodie!” (a song he wrote about a “back door man” with Deborah Hamill Holmes), then careens through a wide variety of catchy soul blues shuffles like “Fifty/Fifty” and “Get That Money,” barn-burning, scorching guitar blues like “What Goes Around Comes Around” and “Plano Texas Blues,” and even a gospel-influenced ballad called “There Ain’t No Right Way To Do Wrong.”  While blues aficionado David Whiteis connects Quintus’ playing to “predecessors such as Lowell Fulson and McKinley Mitchell” in the CD liner notes, I definitely hear Chicago late, greats Johnny Dollar and BB Odom in his music.  His formal musical training at Columbia, coupled with his twenty years working with blues legends and soulful playing make Quintus a formidable force in the new generation of blues men and a clear leader for Chicago soul blues.  Do yourself a favor and go out and buy this CD…better yet, buy a few more for the music lovers on your Christmas list – they’ll thank you for it!       

Note: Given the economic setbacks the blues music industry has been experiencing lately (particularly in Chicago, with the recent closing of Bill’s Blues in Evanston and the planned closing of Blue Chicago’s 736 North Clark location in the new year), please go out and support the clubs and musicians, and buy their CDs. 

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