Release date: April 15, 2021
By Mark Baier
Chris Cain & Guy King at Chicago Blues Festival 2019
Photo: Dianne Bruce Dunklau
Trying to categorize Chris Cain is a daunting task. He’s definitely bluesy, but also altogether funky and soulful with a West Coast jazz attitude. His deep baritone vocals swell with rich tones that are equal parts B.B. King and Big Joe Turner with the style and flair of Mac (Dr. John) Rebennack. Clearly the guitar playing is beyond extraordinary. His command of melody and emotion seems effortless and often careens into territory of the best L.A. jazz cats. To whit, Robbin Ford concurs: “He’s a great blues player with an intensity that keeps you on the edge of your seat; full of humor and insight. I’m a stone fan!” With attributes and credentials like that, you’d think Chris Cain would be a household name. Perhaps that’s about to change. Raisin’ Cain, Cain’s premier release for the world’s preeminent blues label, Chicago’s own Alligator Records, is a remarkable collection of performances showcasing Cain’s exceptional talent, whether it’s songwriting, guitar virtuosity, sax chops or keyboard playing. The man can seemingly do it all, and he’s been doing it a long time.
Chicago blues fans can be excused for not recognizing the name. His appearances in Chicago have been relatively few and far between (tho hard-core fans would remember him infrequently playing Buddy’s and Blues Etc). After his first CD release in 1987 resulted in a whopping four WC Handy award nominations (the forerunner of the Blues Music Awards), Cain toured incessantly, growing his San Jose base from a West Coast phenom to one of the most in demand artists in Europe and the world over thanks to the opportunities afforded by today’s Blues fests and Blues cruises. (Surely we’ll all be attending them again soon! Get your shot!) Raisin’ Cain is Chris’s 15th CD release, and his first for Alligator, putting his prodigious talents on display for the blues communities’ most discriminating ears.
Every one of the songs on Raisin’ Cain are written by Cain and are all examples of a more sophisticated style and instrumentation than is typically familiar to traditional blues fans. There’s no attempt to ape archaic styles or scrape Delta mud from the grooves of Raisin’ Cain. It’s a collection of uptempo superbly recorded songs that feature swinging horn charts, urbane keyboards and upbeat percussion. When Cain adds his deeply soulful vocals and wickedly fluid guitar lines, the result is a joyous experience.
The production quality is understandably first rate courtesy of Kid Andersen and his Greaseland studio. Located right in Cain’s backyard in San Jose, Greaseland has been the go-to recording studio for blues artists worldwide. Widely known for their roots approved recordings, with Raisin’ Cain, Greaseland has really stepped up the game and announced that they’re a world class facility. In addition to producing, recording, mixing and mastering Raisin’ Cain, Andersen plays acoustic and electric rhythm guitar in the studio band that features Greg Rahm (keyboards), Steve Evans (bass), Derrick “D’Mar” Martin and Sky Garcia on drums, plus Lisa Andersen provides backup vocals. The smooth and sassy horn section is comprised of Michael Peloquin (sax), Mike Rinta (trombone), Jeff Lewis (trumpet) and Doug Brown (bari sax).
Despite Cain’s having released over a dozen CDs in the past 35 years on a variety of imprints, Cain never reached the larger audience that his prodigious talents deserve. With Alligator adding Cain to their stable of world-class artists, especially as one of their special 50th anniversary releases, the time is right and the stars have aligned for Chris Cain to reach a level of success and renown that Raisin’ Cain so clearly confirms. Great stuff!