Reviews

Downeast
Sabattus, ME, USA
http://community-2.webtv.net/DowneastReview2/DowneastRecordCD1
September 2001
Conversation With The Blues review

Track 1- Big Train

This tune has a powerful presence which falls into a Fabulous Thunderbirds and Huey Lewis vein. While Pickett's vocals have a gritty, soulful quality he still manages to display an incredible vocal range. Shawn Kellerman's electric lead guitar solo and Pickett's harmonica work are certainly highlights in this rocking Blues piece.
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Track 2- The River

This tune has a nice laid back quality with an old time Blues flavor which comes via Doug Riley's fantastic piano work. Pickett is in the spotlight as he belts out the lyrics with a touching quality much his own. Elements of a Taj Mahal influence bleed through in the overall style of the piece.
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Track 3- Love Don't Mean It

Pickett describes this tune as John Lee Hooker meets J J Cale. There could not be a better phrase which would conjure up an image of this gem. The mellow groove is much in a Cale vein while the emotion-filed vocals are certainly inherent of Hooker's style. The overall groove proves to be very infectious, but the instrumental breaks from the harmonica, sax, B-3 and guitar are certainly elements which cannot be overlooked.
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Track 4- When I Lay My Burden Down

This song has a sound reserved and associated with a "Big Band" production. This comes via the marvelous brass work from John Johnson's tenor, alto and baritone sax and Gord Myers trombone. One of the key highlights from the piece is Bill McCauley's, Booker T Jones-esque B-3 organ solo.
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Track 5- Look Out At The Weather

This tune is an exceptional Blues composition because of the original blend of Delta Blues with an electrifying Texas Blues strength. The bassline which Steve Chadwick lays down is the force which holds the piece so tightly bound. Pickett gives a strong emotion filled vocal presentation, but unfortunately fails to provide much of a harmonica presence in this powerful piece.
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Track 6- Conversation With The Blues

The tiltle track from the album displays why Pickett is considered a pioneer and a highly rated harmonica player in this generation. The use of violin, viola and cello add a unique dimension to the quality of the true Blues presence. A tune which has qualities associated with a great Blues era, (Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters), blended with modern insight is a good summation of this gem.
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Track 7- Cecil & Spadina

This track is sure to be a favorite because it has the elements a true Blues fan searches for, an artist baring his soul for public display. Pickett presents this piece as a duo with Marty Cordrey on percussion. Pickett has just the right groove on a resophonic guitar, leaving minor flaws which make the tune ring true and powerful. This is how the Blues were presented in the Delta, and Pickett gives the listener a gem with his rootsy vocal delivery and charismatic guitar.
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Track 8- It Don't Matter To Me

Pickett's harmonica work is superb on this rocking Blues piece. A tight rhythm section sets a solid foundation allowing the vocals to take flight. Pickett lends his accentuating harp chops behind Shawn Kellerman's lead guitar solo which adds a unique dimension. Instead of being in the spotlight, as most harmonica work is presented, Pickett layers his into the background. This displays a unique manner of arrangement, highlighting the genius in the songwriting abilities of Pickett.
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Track 9- Bad Love

This song has an original feel while maintaining a familiar Blues quality. Pickett's vocals are a highlight as well as his exceptional harmonica fills. Shawn Kellerman and Kevin Breit lend their expressive electric lead guitar chops to elevate the piece to an ultimate sonic plateau.
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Track 10- Junk Thang
This is the only instrumental on the album and it will leave the listener wanting more. The sizzling harmonica riffs must have left Pickett's lips blistered. The jump swing beat makes this an excellent dance selection, though one should be ready to groove for just under five minutes. Another highlight is the captivating electric lead guitar work from Teddy Leonard and Shawn Kellerman.
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Track 11- Mother Earth

Pickett moves back into a "Big Band" sound with this jazzy Blues piece. This tune comes with a complete aural assault via a group of fantastic female harmony singers. The assault doesn't quit there, it continues with trombone, sax, trumpet and Pickett's vocal and harp contributions.
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Track 12- Night Comes

This tune comes courtesy of Doug Riley, who performs the piano work, and Molly Johnson. This tune also falls into a Jazz Blues vein with a heavy Billy Holiday influence bleeding through. This could be a huge hit with the proper promotion, thanks to the super infectious melody.
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*****

If one is searching for some tight, well presented Blues music by an artist who has experience and talent, Michael Pickett's "Conversation With The Blues" is the album to pick up. Pickett presents Blues music with the finesse and charisma which comes from years of study and soulful admiration of what the genre is all about. Blues music is a genre of music which contains a small percentage of composition and a large portion of emotional improvisational expression. Michael Pickett pours himself, body and soul, into each tune on the album, sending the listener on a unique refreshing journey within his conversation with the Blues. Each tune on the album, with the exception of one which is a solo effort from Pickett, finds Pickett's expressive and melodic vocals and mind-blowing harmonica complimented by Shawn Kellerman's extensive Blues guitar work. "Junk Thang", a Blues instrumental done in the key of E, is sure to hook many a Blues fan to Pickett's magnetic harmonica playing. Shawn Kellerman and Teddy Leonard shine on "Junk Thang" with some exhilarating electric lead guitar jamming. "Look Out At The Weather", gives one the impression that Pickett has experienced the Blues with the same force felt by Stevie Ray Vaughan and others who have gained the respect of Blues fans world wide.

Michael Pickett is a talented musician and an amazing artist who breathes a new life into the Blues by bringing it back with original energy and charisma. His style is very much his own, but one can hear and feel early influences in his music lending the comfortable quality and familiarity so often associated with true Blues at it's finest. So if in search for a real Blues sound, call on Michael Pickett and have a conversation with the Blues as never before. Larry Belanger

 

 

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