Juke Joint by Andrew M. Robble

Nick Gravenites approaches his career in the style of the old bluesman - his way, on his terms. The seminal figure who injected life into the folk movement in the late '50s and the Chicago blues sounds of the early and mid-'60s, was also instrumental in the development of the psychedelic era. Gravenites has been associated with such great musicians as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Reed, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Charlie Musselwhite, Elvin Bishop, Bob Dylan, David Crosby, Sam Lay, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Janis Joplin, John Cipollina, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Electric Flag and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Gravenites' compositions rank with some of the greatest blues tunes ever recorded. His songs have been recorded by a host of artists including Janis Joplin, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Tracy Nelson, James Cotton, Howlin' Wolf, Roy Buchanan and Otis Rush. Gravenites has come up with an unexpected new recording, and in the style of the old bluesman, it's incredible.

Nick Gravenites & Animal Mind's Don't Feed The Animals (Waddling Dog Records) consists of ten compositions by Gravenites and Big Bill Broonzy's classic, "Key To The Highway," recorded live in a small club in Bodega Bay, California in January of '94. Animal Mind supplies the perfect vehicle for Gravenites to work with. Mark Adams is a virtuoso harmonica player who has worked with such legends as Muddy Waters, Mike Bloomfield, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker and others, His harp sound is reminiscent of Charlie Musselwhite and Kim Wilson nderbirds). He attacks with raw power and pulls back to savor that authentic blues feel. Doug Killmer is a solid blues bassist with outstanding credentials that include Charlie Musselwhite, The Loading Zone, Mike Bloomfield, Luther Tucker, Otis Rush and Commander Cody. Rounding out Animal Mind is drummer extraordinaire Roy Blumenfeld, whose roots tie him to the legendary Blues Project, Al Kooper, Elvin Bishop, The Rowan Brothers, Carlos Santana, Robert Hunter and others. Blumenfeld is as at home playing a shuffle, as he is playing a slow blues number.

Surrounded by a near-perfect band, Gravenites blends his beautiful blues voice with precision guitar playing, making this unit funky and rocking, but always oozing with the blues. "Wintry Countryside" is a beautiful 11-minute song that takes five minutes of guitar introduction to create a sense of winter. Gravenites' guitar playing makes every note count in a seductive vein. Having spent most of his career in the role of lead singer and sometimes rhythm guitarist, Gravenites proves to be a skillful lead guitarist as he handles all the guitar parts. There is a moment in the glorious "Wintry Countryside" where Gravenites' vocal inflection sounds exactly like Muddy Waters would in a similar phrase. "Blue Highway" and "Six Weeks In Reno" go back to the days when Gravenites worked with the late John Cipollina. The band is particularly tight in these two numbers, as they are in the Etta James tribute "Big Bad Etta," where the vocals and harp interplay create an atmosphere of fear and respect. "Southside" is a shuffle-influenced gritty tune that relives the life on the South Side of Chicago, with some fine guitar work pulsated by the rhythm section. Adam's harp playing resurrects the sounds of Little Walter Jacobs and James Cotton. The remainder of the recording follows in the same mode. Gravenites combines his songwriting abilities with an almost "made for the blues" voice to create a masterpiece of a blues recording. The sensitivity and presence that Gravenites brings to his music is unparalleled today and qualifies him as a national blues treasure to be savored and appreciated. Not surprisingly, the old time bluesman did it his way and, in the end, it is simply - excellent! Don't Feed The Animals is definitely going to end up in my Top Ten list for blues recording of the year.

[Reviews of Studebaker John Grimaldi and the Hawks' Too Tough, Mark Hummel's Feel Like Rockin', Roomful of Blues' Dance All Night, W. C. Clark's Heart of Gold, and Real Australian Blues: Volume 2 not transcribed]

Relix, October 1994, Vol. ? No. ?

[Many thanks to Rosannah for sending me a copy of these pages.]

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Last updated: 31-Dec-2003