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CD REVIEW -- Madison Slim
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Close But No Cigar


Madison Slim CD art

By Kevin Purcell

Thirteen songs of Chicago style blues played by some of the best. That is what you get with this new release from Madison Slim, the first CD under his own name. And that is a mystery, because he delivers the goods with fervor and cool command. He is joined on this CD by some luminaries of the blues scene, and if you like your blues laid out with Chicago style, raw but smooth vocals, and harp tone as big as a bus, this CD is a perfect addition to your collection.


Madison Slim honed his harp skills in Chicago, and spent time playing with Jimmy Rogers, Sam Lay, the Legendary Blues Band, and Reverend Raven to name a few. His biggest influence was Big Walter Horton, who played the Chicago clubs in the ‘70s and Slim was lucky enough to be able to sit in awe of this master, and let the harp tones soak in. It’s safe to say Slim went on to become a master himself, which is evident on this project, with sonorous tone, fantastic phrasing, subtle rhythmic fills, and plenty of rollicking harp solos. The rhythm section is unsurpassable with their flawless execution of the Chicago sound that just gets under your feet and makes you want to move.


The list of songs is also a treat, as Slim picked material from some of the ace blues songwriters, mostly vintage but some new, with the title track written by the venerated Jim Liban, a harp player from Milwaukee. And to top it off, even Slim penned one of the tunes. The CD starts off with “Big Town Playboy,” a raucous total Chicago style boogie, with all the right fix in’s for a fine kickoff. He follows that with some classic bluesy rhythms, with robust harp solos throughout, and on “Would You Baby,” written by two great Willies (Mabon and Dixon), the outstanding sax of Terry Hanck comes blasting in, with rip roaring resonance and sizzling drama, to make you feel like you’re in a juke joint circa 1940!


 “New Leaf” is a prime Jimmy Reed vehicle that states his future intentions, followed by “If It Ain’t Me,” a boogie number asking that age old question. The title song “Close But No Cigar” is a nicely crafted tune, a bit different, and the sentiment of so many bluesmen! The songs flow nicely, with different grooves to keep the feet happy, especially when they throw in a song from the legendary Fats Domino, “Let the Four Winds Blow,” where Terry does some more eloquent and well-placed sax riffs. The CD ends with Madison’s harp instrumental blues composition, “Florida Blues,” which is where Madison lives now. What could be more fitting than that?


The players on this CD know their stuff as far as getting the feel of those good old blues. The rhythm section of Andrew Gohman on upright and electric bass and Devin Neel on drums is impeccable; they keep the songs tight and rolling along with excitement in the groove. The great Barrelhouse Chuck is unparalleled at making that piano sound like you’re in a barrelhouse, cup in hand, ready to dip into a barrel of that white whiskey! And the guitar players, Doug Deming and Billy Flynn are two gifted, skilled and tasteful blues players that are bound to make any recording they’re on sound magnificent. Doug is an avid songwriter who fronts his own band, The Jewel Tones, also a great band, and Billy Flynn has had an esteemed career as a player and a songwriter with an astounding catalog of original material. These guys are from the A-list, and it shows.


If you are looking to add a top drawer Chicago-style, raucous, but slick, boogie-woogie blues album to your collection, this one fits the bill. Put in Close But No Cigar, sit down with a cocktail, turn it up, and boogie to the enduring harp sounds of Madison Slim. You will dig it!

You can order a copy of the disc by sending a PayPal payment to - $15 plus $2.95 for shipping & handling.


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