KEVIN PURCELL & THE NIGHTBURNERS
House of Fire
by Dave Glynn
“A Night With the Nightburners’” should have been the name of this CD from veteran Bluesman and Southern rocker Kevin Purcell rather than “House of Fire” as this CD exemplifies a kick-ass set from the Nightburners on any give night. Kevin and the Nightburners have been tearing around the Chicagoland circuit since the early 80’s. This CD burns right through the player. Comprised mostly of classic songs like “Killin’ Floor”, “Whippin’ Post”, and “Rocket 88” one might yawn and say “here we go again.” However, the fresh and energetic approach to these songs transcends concerns over rehashed material. Not to mention some very good production to bring the band up front and personal.
The CD kicks off with “Boogie ‘til Midnight” ala Kim Wilson complete with the dirty harp and vocals from Kevin. You certainly will boogie ‘til the wee hours listening to this song. The southern treatment of Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied” on the second cut, demonstrates Kevin’s affinity for southern blues and rock. Solos are provided on this song by Kevin, Dave Steffen on slide electric guitar and Andy Ohlrich on fiddle. Jeff “Stickman” Martindale keeps things movin’ along on the drums.
The album switches gears on the next cut, Storyville’s “Good Day for the Blues”, one of my favorite songs. The band’s versatility is proven well by the arrangement and instrumentation on this song. Kevin’s lead vocals and the harmony vocals are extremely strong on this. A lovely fiddle solo is provided by Andy Ohlrich and Stickman’s drumming is quite a treat.
Following this is Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killin’ Floor” ala Electric Flag and this is a good example of what Kevin and the Nightburners take away from these songs. It’s like they picked the best elements of other artists’ interpretations of these tunes, personified them and taken them to a new level. Dave Steffen takes the lead on this one, literally, and does a fine job on a song that is a hard act to follow when you’re talking about Hubert Sumlin, Mike Bloomfield and Jimi Hendrix as your opening acts.
Next up is one of three original songs on the album, “Livin’ in the Light” which comes to the only criticism – why only three originals? We’d love to hear more – so get your butt busy writing some more songs, eh Kevin? Kevin dedicates the song to Candis, his wife, so Candis needs to inspire Kevin to write some more. This is a good, bouncy number with great energy and well-written lyrics.
“Orange Blossom Special” speaks for itself and of course features a train that goes off the track (in a good way) with Kevin and Andy dueling it out – harp vs. fiddle. “Rocket 88”, another classic, is played at a very fast pace and gets your feet a movin’.
“Somehow”, penned by Kevin, is a very strong, speedy blues/rock number that is complex, rolling up a lot of Kevin’s influences that would include Little Feat. The organ solo from Carter Luke is a nice touch, and again Stickman holds this baby together ala Frank Zappa’s Terry Bozzio. “That’s Alright”, another original, follows “Somehow” very well with a Texas boogie feel with some good guitar layers from Dave Steffen and a Jean Luc Ponty-like solo from Andy Ohlrich. Kevin kicks it up a notch with a good harmonica solo that tangles with Martindale’s beat and Steffen responds with a great guitar solo.
“All Along the Watchtower” resembles Dave Mason’s version and Andy Ohlrich’s violin really helps this one along. “Whippin’ Post”, well what can one say – they do a great version.
Longtime Chicagoland blues/rocker Kevin Purcell provides a solid overview of the band with the song selection and presentation. He pulls together a very good lineup of musicians for “House of Fire” and generates his showmanship right through the speakers. This CD is an excellent showcase of Kevin Purcell & the Nightburners and will motivate listeners to go out and see this band. I would highly recommend that you pick up this CD from their Website at http://www.nightburners.com/. There are more CDs available as well and you won’t be disappointed.
About the author: Dave Glynn is the lead singer for the Empty Can Band found on the Web at http://www.emptycanband.com. Dave writes reviews for MNBlues.com and ChicagoBluesGuide.com.
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