Tampa Blue, FAME (Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange), 2008
Edited by: David N. Pyles, Peterborough Folk Music Society
The American South has given birth to some great literature, wonderful food and world-shaking music, including the blues. All parents are happy when they see their offspring out on their own, independently conquering the world and sending home messages of their well-being. Ken Whiteley’s One World Dance is one of those messages sent by the blues and it says, “I’m alive and well and living in Canada!”
For those unfamiliar with Whiteley (folks like me) you can tell he’s got it right from the first bar of the first track, Everybody Has The Blues. Actually, I could tell from the opening chord. The music is sultry and the temperature is just where steam first begins to appear. Then he comes in with the vocals. The phrasing and attitude are reminiscent of BB King. Whiteley understands the importance of feel so well that he holds the reins through the entire piece, never letting it get out of hand, setting the mood and building the tension for more to come.
It starts coming with the second track, Get At. This is one of those boogies that will make a lame man walk! The dual guitar work between Whiteley and Amos Garrett is masterful.
Masterful is a perfect word to describe this collection of mostly original tunes. Masterful and amazing. It is amazing how masterfully Whiteley covers a wide range of the blues palate. He is able to be faithful to his own sensibilities while working in each of the sub-genres. Not only is the instrumentation masterful but the song writing is as well. Whiteley’s weakest work still sets goals so high that most song writers can only hope to occasionally reach them.
The title track is definitely not your father’s blues. And, to be honest, I did not care much for it on first hearing. But I have decided that I needed to open my ears and allow Whiteley to broaden my tastes a little. The music of this blues/world-beat fusion song is infectious and I have found myself listening to it repeatedly.
There are a couple of treatments of “traditional” tunes. This version of the Son House song, Death Letter Blues is right on the mark. I don’t think that even Son himself could find any fault here. And the blues spiritual, Two Wings, is so powerful, so beautifully done that it will move the heart of the most hardened sinner!
So, the blues another of its children. Ken Whiteley’s One World Dance can sit at the table with all the other far-flung offspring of the South. Nice to meet you!