If you missed this one last fall, you still have time to catch up with one of the best blues records of 2001. A 17-track “blues harp extravaganza”, Greasy Kid Stuff was cut in two days. Featuring the likes of John Harman, Johnny Dyer, and Charles Musselwhite, there’s still plenty of room for Kid Ramos provide his fizz to the mix of players. The title track “Greasy Kid Stuff” is jumping. From the slightly flattened blues notes squeezed out from saxophones chatting out an answer to the fat, raunchy tones from the guitar, this is not just greasy. This is very, very greasy. If you’re at all familiar with the sound of vintage R&B as it came out of California in the 1950s, this song will take you straight there, and this was written and recorded just last year. It’s like Kid Ramos and John Harman just unthawed and stepped out of a cryogenic chamber located somewhere on Wilmington Boulevard, they sound too cool to fool. This 1950s time travel sets the mood for the whole record.
First up’s greasy, then comes nasty. The saxes are moaning while Ramos scratches up the barnyard as John Harman wails out his love for the famous “Chicken Hearted Woman”. You will understand this song even if you’ve never seen the amazingly tiny, walnut-sized, and surprisingly tough little heart that pumps behind a chicken’s beautiful display of breast. Or know what a frustrating short attention span such a creature has, so easily distracted from any interest when called back to her pack of girlfriends.
The blues rocker “Charlie’s Old Highway 51 Blues” is uptown for being so down home, with Musselwhite providing amazing texture on his harp, moving from jazzy to bluesy mid-phrase. His lyrics answer the self-posed question what does a poor boy do with the simple truth, “stuffs newspapers in his shoes”. If you’ve ever heard Musselwhite describe walking for miles to work through the slush and snow of a Chicago winter with the freezing water seeping into his shoe from a hole worn through straight through by walking, you’ll suspect how he dreamed up that insulating feature. Musselwhite easily shouts out the funny blues grind “Rich Man’s Woman on a Poor Man’s Pay”, a song so old the author is probably lost to time, while Ramos stings his runs like the Muddy Waters of yesteryear. Johnny Dyer gives a turn on the oldies, and cries out his version of the obscure Lightnin’ Slim song, “Mean Ol’ Lonesome Train”. Dyer’s harmonica sounds the whistle and the train goes shuffling down the track steamed up by a staggered meter that sounds like an ancient arcane jug band rhythm. The mood masterpiece is “Marion’s Mood” with Rick Estrin on harp successfully evoking memories of Marion (“Little Walter”) Jacobs.
Most of these songs are recent compositions, and all are played in a variety of blues styles. This is not mere imitation, the horns are reminiscent of but not exactly like the slightly off-tone fat horn charts played in the ‘50s, but somehow the overall effect summons up memories of those Los Angeles rhythm and blues of many decades past. The new blues masterpieces are being written in this day and time, with James Harman’s intelligent and lyrically complex “Gratitude Is Riches and Complaint Is Poverty”. This song will find a responsive chord in any writer’s heart, especially with the advice not to kill the messenger who brings bad tidings, “Don’t blame me / When you don’t like the plot / Ya’ll can just kiss my ass / And thanks a lot”.
You may have seen Kid Ramos onstage in a sharkskin suit opening for X and Oingo Boingo back in Los Angeles of the ‘80s where he first met Los Lobos, or you may have seen him in the ‘90s playing with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. David “Kid” Ramos has developed a unique voice in the blues by hearkening back to L.A.‘s roots-music. A more stripped down version than his previous friend-heavy outings, Greasy Kid Stuff is his third album for Evidence. In the past decade, Evidence began as a reissue-only label whose first offerings were hard-to-find foreign recordings of jazz and blues. Evidence released the great lost Sun Ra albums and blues albums recorded in Chicago and issued only in Germany. Evidence has since begun producing its own CDs, and Kid Ramos is only one of an assortment of solid bluesmen, but he’s a good one to start with. You can order this record through Evidence or ask for a copy of their current catalog by e-mailing: EvidenceMusic@aol.com.