Sunday, July 26, 2015

Thad Beckman – Streets of Disaster

Streets of Disaster
Thadzooks Records

I first became aware of Thad Beckman several years ago when he began working as Tom Russell’s back-up guitarist. Knowing Tom as I do, particularly after 25 years with the great Andrew Hardin as his primary accompanist, there was no doubt in my mind that Thad would be a great guitarist. And he certainly proved that to me when I first saw them play together in 2012. Listening to Thad’s two previously released CDs, Me Talkin’ to Me and Blues Gone By, I also found out that Thad was a good singer-songwriter, and a particularly fine interpreter of traditional blues, in his own right.

As good as the songs were on Me Talkin’ to Me, released on 2008, Streets of Disaster is a giant step forward. Seamlessly working in blues, country and contemporary folk styles, Thad’s songwriting – and his fine performances – now seems classic and timeless.

 “Street of Disaster,” the quasi-title track, opens the album. Using a traditional blues mode, the song is a compelling commentary on the state of the contemporary world.

Other highlights include “Blues in My Blood” and “Stirring Up Some Ashes,” a couple of country songs that seems like Merle Haggard at his best; “If Only My Heart Had a Brain,” a look back at romantic history set to a lovely solo guitar arrangement; “200 Dollars,” a witty blues tune in a Mississippi John Hurt mode; and “A Soldier Returns Home,” an extended, impressionistic blues guitar instrumental.

Thad Beckman, Mike Regenstreif, Tom Russell (2012)
In addition to nine of his own compositions, Thad also includes a slinky version of Richard “Rabbit” Brown’s “James Alley Blues,” one of my all-time favorite blues songs (the original was included on Harry Smith’s legendary Anthology of American Folk Music), in which Thad’s vocals are very effectively complemented by Mike Emerson on organ, Kurtis Piltz on harmonica, and Thad on electric lead guitar; and a terrific live duet with Tom Russell on Tom’s enduring, “Blue Wing.”

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--Mike Regenstreif

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