Local Wire

Tomcat Courtney

Not to get all "purist," but it's no secret that blues — along with its bastard child, rock 'n' roll — has been "gentrified" to within an inch of its life. (Cripes, songs by the Who and the Clash are being used to sell cars.) There are hundreds of modern blues albums that exude as much vehemence and passion as John Mayer. All the more reason to be, dare we say, excited about the national debut of Texas-bred, San Diego-based singer/guitarist/ songwriter Tomcat Courtney. Born in 1929, this chap was at the crossroads (no pun intended) of rural acoustic and urban electric blues styles, just like legends Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker. Melt-your-mind originality? Nope — but Courtney has this virtually feral cry in his voice, an echo of the field hollers that were part of blues' origins, something that's damn rare in contemporary my-baby-done-left-me merchants. The sizzling, buzzing guitars of Courtney and Chris James are rich with barbed, in-the-red distortion. Producer Bob Corritore's amplified harmonica has massive presence with a serrated edge that could cut you if you got too close. Recorded in Tucson, Downsville Blues will likely be one of the best blues discs of '08.
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Mark Keresman