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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Eddie Vaan Shaw, Jr.

Ass Whoopin'!

Review by Lisa Palmeno

Ass Whoopin! is blues veteran Eddie Vaan Shaw, Jr.’s 2001 solo release. Vaan Shaw, Jr. digs down deep on this 14-track compilation of exciting, full-bodied blues. Well-known for his work with his dad’s band, Eddie Vaan Shaw (and the Wolf Gang), little Eddie proves he took his music lessons super seriously. Part modern electric, part down-home acoustic, and all worked up, the album features three live recordings at the end of the CD, “Mornin’ Rain” (the second version); “Same Old Blues” (also a second version); and the original “I’m Crazy Now.” Backed by an all-star team (Eddie Sr. and The Mad Hatter on piano with Willie Kent and John Primer on bass guitars), the acclaimed lead guitarist rocks through a great selection of blues classics and heart-warming originals. Whether it’s a sleepy, love ballad driven by Mississippi guitar or a wanton, hip-shaking anthem led by steely strings, Ass Whoopin!! throws down a box full of A-Side quality blues.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Mornin' Rain
The sad, elongated wail of the alto sax opens this classic in style. The Mad Hatter coaxes the melody line in play on the piano while the guitar waits a turn before squeezing out a solo from the high end of the fret board.
Never Used Blues
Pure Chicago blues oozes out of Vaan Shaw’s axe on this up-tempo dance tune.
It Hurts Me Too
Eddie’s band drags the melody line across the dance floor and out into lonely street. Deeply soulful guitar riffs and a woeful harp sing like two lovesick birds. This powerful rendition of Elmore James’ standard makes the CD worth picking up all by itself.
Same Old Blues
This is a solid cover of the seriously melancholy tale of a cheating lover, especially on the guitar solos.
TV Preacher
Vaan Shaw pokes fun at T.V. evangelism saying he wants to be a TV preacher “with a Cadillac, shiny shoes, pin-striped suit and a California tan.” The tune is upbeat and slightly humorous while taking digs at corrupt clergy.
Pimp Slap Slide
Just as the name says, it’s slapping and slide work, laid across a strutting beat and fun interjections from Mike Pevey’s sax.
Roller Coaster Blues
In the spirit of “Train Kept a Rollin’,” “Roller Coaster Blues” stays on the fast track with a steady beat and horn-blowing harmonica from Chris Sandera and complementary keys. The singer tells about how the roller coaster blues keeps him going up and down, round and round, making him dizzy, as he refers back to how he loves his woman.
Give Me Time
“Give Me Time” is an easy, front porch harmonica/acoustic guitar duet. The tune feels like a simple, pleasant invitation to sit on the swing, sip lemonade, and enjoy the country life. It’s here that the CD switches from the modern, electric blues to traditional acoustic blues for a while.
I've Heard
Moving from the front porch to the back roads of the country, “I’ve Heard” is true blues with fine-tuned acoustic slide work and moaning harp. The storyteller has an “I told you so” attitude of a man who’s been tossed aside for the last time. This is the highlight of the album.
B.S. Makes the World Go Round
Acoustic strumming, steady piano, and well-placed harmonica phrases join forces to support the tell-it-like-it-is lyrics that give blues its name.
I Heard Voices Cryin' Inside My Head
Steely strumming accompanies Eddie’s singular vocals. The bluesman really shines on acoustic guitar here, and it’s also here that his voice mellows. This one ties with “I’ve Heard” for best song.
Same Old Blues
This live, second version of “Same Old Blues” is unbelievably great. The solo performance on bass is cool and contemplative, and Vaan Shaw’s guitar solos are stellar.
Mornin' Rain
Recorded with a live audience, the second version of “Mornin’ Rain” is lighter, jazzier and romantic.
I'm Crazy Now
Mr. Vaan Shaw chats with the audience a little before gently easing into a super smooth groove. The precision of Eddie’s picking and his dynamic use of chords are phenomenal, and the combined effect is intellectually intoxicating.
 
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