Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jet City Blues CD Review

By Mark Dalton

Decade of Soul – From the Soul
by Star Drums and Lady Keys

Surely the longest running continuous gig that fits under the big tent of the Pacific Northwest Blues scene is that of New Orleans native Leslie “Stardrums” Milton and Gael “Lady Keys” Kurath at Everett’s Alligator Soul Creole restaurant. Leslie and Gael have had a regular Saturday night gig at this venue for over a decade – a “house band” gig of the kind that has almost completely vanished from the national horizon in this era of big street television and downloadable, disposable music.

I had the good fortune of growing up in an era when longer term engagements were much more common – when setting up equipment for at least two nights, and often four or five was the rule, rather than the succession of one-nighters scattered around the area, which is the nearly invariable situation today. Longer engagements allowed a band to settle in and get to know their audience, and vice versa. I once played a five-night-a-week job with Tom McFarland that lasted eight months, and during that time we got to feel like part of the family at the Boulder Café on First Avenue… a very strange, intriguing, and sometimes scary family – but an experience I’ll never forget!

This live CD captures the warm relationship that has developed between this duo and their audience very well. Stardrums and Lady Keys sound relaxed and happy here, confident of their acceptance by the enthusiastic crowd. The material covers quite a range; from Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” to the country standard “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You” to the New Orleans classic “Junko Partner.” Standout tunes for me include Leslie’s sly version of “Little Red Rooster,” and the Guitar Slim classic “The Things That I Used to Do” (with stinging guest guitar by Walter Young), and Gael’s rollicking takes on “I Want to Be Loved” and “Madam Kicks,” and the scolding “Don’t Lie to Me” (with Mike Lynch taking a great harp solo). Other good tunes here include Marcia Ball’s “Red Beans,” Larry Davis’ “Texas Flood” (made popular by Stevie Ray Vaughan), Willie Dixon’s classic “I’m Ready,” and Leslie’s unique reading of “Tennessee Waltz.”

This is a pair of consummate entertainers. Leslie Milton is one of the finest drummers ever to hit a Northwest stage, and Lady Keys’ two-fisted piano playing shines throughout. I’m thinking you should head out to Alligator Soul some Saturday night soon; get yourself some good Cajun food, settle back and get into this joyful show! And if you like what you hear (and I guarantee you will), pick up a copy of this CD and take them home with you.

Originally from Nebraska, Mark Dalton moved to Seattle in the early '70s. He is an accomplished bassist and stalwart bluesman. He currently plays with Chris Stevens' Surf Monkeys. Photo by Ronda Lee.

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