Mr. G & The Mystery Band - It's A Mystery
Self Release / G-FreeThoughts Publishing
11 songs; 73:07 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Harmonica Blues; Chicago Blues
Well, well, these are mysteries:
Who is Mr. G?
Who will be in his band at the next live show?
How can this group put out a really good, all original music, debut Blues CD using “a live in the studio approach with limited overdubs and few takes” while others invest excessively and come out with crap?
“Why can’t we all just get along?”
“Why can’t some people tell right from wrong?”
“Why are some people kind and generous and others are rotten to the core?”
“Why do we all love to sing and dance?”
“Why does a pretty girl get a tattoo?”
“Why do young men wear those saggy pants?”
Some of these puzzlers found in the title track have answers while others will remain unknown. First, “Mr G” is Chris Gillock, a singer, songwriter, and harpist who started life in California but finished his education in Chicago and put down area roots. He became a student of Chicago Blues and traded his California funk and jazz trombone for the Blues harmonica.
Mr. G established the Mystery Band on Thanksgiving evening in 2003, filling in for a busted booking at the now defunct Bill’s Blues Bar in Evanston, Illinois, where he was a “hanger-on” and investor. In the six years since, Mr. G has convinced over 45 of Chicago-land’s top blues and jazz players to join the Mystery Band’s mission: “to jam and have fun.” The liner notes list most of those recruits, and the “A Team” on this CD are very talented Chicago stalwarts and pedigreed, indeed: Guitars – OSee Anderson and Anthony Palmer; Drums – James Carter; and bass – Greg “E.G.” McDaniel.
As a reviewer, I receive too many “Blues” CDs that are not. It is a joy to receive this set of solid Blues with first rate playing, unique chromatic harp tones, and eleven original songs with both thoughtful and humorous lyrics. Some of Mr G’s raucous harmonica is rightly featured in the first track, which poses both deep questions (“mean people”) and funny mysteries (the “tattoos” and “saggy pants”).
Sometimes, Mr G juxtaposes a light hearted look and heart break in the same verse like in “My Dog and Me,” a swampy guitared story of marital breakup. “When I first met my wife, I thought she was so fine / But the longer I lived with that woman the more I loved my canine / I couldn’t satisfy her no matter how hard I tried / But now she’s gone and I must confess I feel dead inside.”
Back to fun in track three; “Hey José,” is a traditional 12 bar Chicago Blues shuffle with great harp soloing and guitar breaks by OSee Anderson. As the story goes, José is a best-friend bartender, and the narrator is in clearly in Chicago because he keeps ordering “another Old Style® beer.” This one is headed for a fun spot in my radio show!
Another must play song is the set’s real standout, a minor key chromatic workout, “Cheat Me Fair.” This slow Blues is an eight minute expose of love gone wrong featuring torturing vocals, harp solos and Anthony Palmer’s gut wrenching guitar. The narrator indulges in a curious fantasy about “driving an old Dodge Dart down to Mexico to find a Mexican girl who will follow him everywhere and always tell the truth.” Now that’s funny!
My first ear-worm (song that repeats later in your head) came from the chorus on “Get Out and Walk,” written when gasoline prices were over $4.00 per gallon in 2008. The special effects harp sounds come from a low D harp muted by a coffee cup. The rhythm guitar percolates like a mountain brook on this Country Blues flavored, go green themed number.
One song has Reggae flavoring, one a Bo Diddley beat, another is a rumba. There is an ode to square shouldered working folk, a “Payin’ Taxes” protest, and themes from after hours partying to both sides of love. Bottom line: every track on this CD is a winner. Put this CD in a blind listening test for Blues fans and friends, and they will agree that there is enough going on here to elevate to a national level this band that’s slowly building a following in the intensely competitive Chicago Blues market.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Thursdays from 7 - 8 pm and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL