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CD Reviews  Little Chris and the Nightcrawlers Bone Blue


Little Chris and the Nightcrawlers

CD Review by Pat Benny

BONE BLUE, released on Gusano Records, is the latest release from one of Southern California’s premier West Coast Swing bands known as Little Chris and the Nightcrawlers.

  For those of you who aren’t familiar with West Coast Swing blues, you need to understand that this is not cryin’ in your beer blues.  This is toe-tappin’, get up and dance music that is a combination of Chicago blues, a little jazz and a lot of swing.  This is good time music, done up California style and inspired by the late George “Harmonica” Smith.  Chris Fast is a disciple of George Smith, and he is more than capable of carrying the torch for the blues legend.

  There aren’t many harp players out there with the confidence to have not one, but two saxophone players in his band.  Most players would see this as a distraction from their own instrument.  But Little Chris is not your run of the mill harp player.  I’ve been a fan of Chris for a long time, and I’m always reminded of Eric Clapton’s description of J.J. Cale: it’s not what he plays, it what he doesn’t play.  To this writer, Chris Fast has always focused on his incredible tone rather than trying to play every note at lighting speed—not that he can’t, because there are times on this recording when he is dazzling,.  But what is really impressive is his ability to blend his harp playing with his band, saxophones and all.  It takes a big man with a lot of humility to do that, and in this respect, Chris Fast is anything but little.

  Of course, having a band that can swing as hard as the Nightcrawlers doesn’t hurt.  These cats have been playing together for some time, and they are as polished as a West Coast Swing band can be.  They might not have a pretty blonde playing keyboard, but believe me, there is nothing missing in this band.  Along with Alfredo Ballestros and Bud Dehl on saxophones, the Nightcrawlers include Hank Barrio’s exceptional guitar, Dennis Kenmore on drums and Fred Rivera on bass.  Fred plays a busy bass and the only thing better than listening to him is to see him live.  He holds his bass like no one else and has a great time doing it that is entertaining and highly contagious.

  There is a great mix of original songs by Chris Fast, including “World Lost Its Mind” and “Just Another Bump” and some classics like Al Duncan’s “Too Late Brother” and Willie Dixon’s hilarious “29 Ways.”  The twelfth track is an instrumental version of “Moanin’ Blues,” which features on guitar the author, Delaney Bramlett.  Unlike the rest of the tunes on this CD, this one is as country as a sugar sandwich.

  This album is a barrel of fun, almost as fun as a night at Steamer’s in Fullerton, California with Little Chris and the Nightcrawlers.  You can check them out on the Net at:

 --Pat Benny


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