There ain’t nothing fancy going on here, and that’s a good thing.
This disc is about as basic as you can get: just one guy playing acoustic guitar and singing – at the same time.
No tricky overdubs, no horn sections, no… well, you get the idea. And the truth of the matter is that Phil Drum doesn’t need any of that to make these songs sing.
As the founder of the Saratoga Acoustic Blues Society, Drum knows his stuff, and his fingers strut up and down the fretboard with assurance and just enough sparkle to sell this collection of vintage blues nuggets from the songbags of such greats as Mississippi John Hurt (“Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”), Blind Lemon Jefferson (“Matchbox Blues” and “One Dime Blues”) and Charlie Patton (“Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues”).
He spices things up a bit with some sweet, slicing slide guitar work on Blind Willie Johnson’s tale of the Titanic, “God Moves On the Water,” making it somehow sound simultaneously harrowing and hopeful.
And if that’s all that Drum had to offer, this would still be a mighty fine album. But he ups the ante with a handful of exquisite original songs that fit right in the pocket with the time-honored blues gems of yore.
Two of his original tunes pay hometown homage – “Saratoga Rag” and “Saratoga Blues,” both snappy and struttin’ – but it’s the string-bending title track that’s the real stand-out track, closing out the album and bringing it all together by paying tribute to the many blues greats who never got their due until it was too late.
Phil Drum will team up with other members of the Saratoga Acoustic Blues Society – including Dave Scheffel and Ray Giguere – for a free performance at the Center Stage on Broadway in Saratoga Springs at 8:15pm on Friday, in conjunction with this weekend’s Saratoga ArtsFest. Drum will also be playing with Bluesology at the Inn at Saratoga at 7pm on Saturday.