Sweet Daddy Cool Breeze – 28 Years With The Blues
9 songs – 39 minutes
The magnificently monikered Sweet Daddy Cool Breeze are a Chicago-style blues band, originally formed by front man Wally “Sweet Daddy” Greaney back in 1990. 28 Years With The Blues is the band’s first release since 2004 and is a collection of live recordings. The press material states that the tracks are from a previously unreleased recording the band made during an East Coast tour, but while the tracks certainly sound like they were recorded live, there is sadly no information provided of where or when they were made.
The album opens with the funky swing of “He Loved The Blues”, in which Greaney recounts, almost in a sprechstimme style, the story of a late friend of his, who was particularly partial to the blues. It’s a tight band, with the rhythm section of Eddy Humber (bass) and Jimmy McNamara (drums) laying down a suitably taut groove, over which Greaney lays down some impressive harp and Mark Easton flails his guitar. The mix throughout 28 Years With The Blues reflects the fact that it is a live recording, with Easton’s guitar and Greaney’s vocal and harp very much to the fore, but with Joe Elliot’s keyboards and McNamara’s drums often buried very low in the mix.
The band follow up “He Loved The Blues” with a raucous version of Otis Rush’s “Keep On Loving Me” (curiously re-titled here as “I Want You To Love Me”) before launching into a tale that will be familiar to any touring musician, “Motel King For A Day” on which Greaney’s harmonica takes the solo. Unfortunately, there is no information provided about the songwriters for any of the tracks on the album, so it is difficult to know how many of the songs are self-written and which are covers.
The stuttering 12 bar “Jenny Brown” (not the The Smothers Brothers 1964 hit) and the Chicago shuffle of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “She’s My Baby” both allow Greaney and Easton some time to stretch out on the solos, while Greaney pulls out his saxophone on Ronnie Earl’s “Stickin’” (here called “Stickin’ It”), which also contains some lovely organ playing from Elliot.
The rapid shuffle of “Sweet Tooth Mama”, previously released on a Connecticut Blues Society sampler Local Flavor back in 2003, mines the wry lyrical theme of overindulgence and the resulting weight gain but features some neat interplay between sax and guitar before McNamara takes a series of mini-drum breaks that really raise the temperature.
Easton’s guitar showcase is a cover of Roy Buchanan’s “Sweet Dreams”, a potentially risky choice given Roy Buchanan’s hallowed treatment of the old Don Gibson song, but Easton holds his own even while acknowledging Buchanan’s influence in both the choice of notes and the use of techniques such as pinch harmonics.
The closing track on the album is James Cotton’s harmonica instrumental tour-de-force, “The Creeper”, a fitting tribute to one of Greaney’s primary influences as well as to original SDCB (and Cotton band) drummer, Kenny Johnson.
28 Years With The Blues is a relatively short but enjoyable album of modern Chicago blues and is a fine introduction to Sweet Daddy Cool Breeze. On the evidence of this release, they are clearly a fine act to see live.