Smokin' Blues

Mark T. Small

Lead Foot Music, 2014

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Mark T. Small is one of those underappreciated blues musician and guitar warriors who has been practicing his craft for the past 40 years in blues clubs in his native New England and across the country. Every once in awhile, he ventures into the studio to record his adventures. He will release my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Smokin’ Blues near the end of January.

Small has taken a different path on his new album. It is patterned after his live show, which means it is basically a solo affair. It was recorded with the intent that the listener would feel like he or she was in a small and intimate club with Small. There is no trickery or recording wizardry; what he plays is what you hear.

The songs are those he plays on stage. They are a blues history as he brings tunes from Charley Patton, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Reverend Gary Davis, and more back to life. His style is both traditional acoustic from the Delta and electric from Chicago. Every once in a while, however, he switches to a New Grass format with a picking style that is reminiscent of Chet Atkins.

The best introductions to his guitar virtuosity are the instrumentals ”Buck Rag,” which was made famous by the Reverend Gary Davis and the album ending “America Medley,” on which he plays bass, harmony, and melody seemingly all at once.

Whether playing and singing such blues classics as “Moanin’ At Midnight” and “Early In The Morning” or transferring Rufus Thomas’ “Walking The Dog” to a new format, Small is a blues purest. His version of Patton’s “Stone Pony Blues” is as close to prewar Delta Blues as one can get.

Mark T. Small is a throwback to the blues musicians of a bygone era. He continues to practice the craft he loves in small clubs and bars. Smokin’ Blues is a fine introduction to his music.

Rating: B+

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