Kurt Crandall's new disc - Take It Off - is an enjoyable album. Crandall is a first-rate songsmith and impressive harper who surrounds himself with a stellar crew of players. The ingredients are delectable. His sound is uniquely his own. On the opening 8th Event Bill Heid sets the church tone on organ. You know it’s really a gospel tune, but that’s the magic of the song, that wedding of gospel and secular with tambourines, drums, and a superb backing chorus with handclaps. Crandall sings “I saw a girl I had to meet/she was a finely-tuned heptathlete” before Karl Angerer adds a rockabilly flair on guitar. Talk about a song that has a bit of everything! The following title cut, sung to a cha cha groove, celebrates bald heads. “Listen to me and everything will be fine/don’t you fight mother nature/get in line with father time/take it off/let your bald head show.” Can’t Dance is a swinging harp blow on which Crandall decides that if she can’t dance there’s no romance because she “ain’t got no rhythm” and if she doesn’t have it on the dance floor, she probably won’t have it later that night (wink wink). The band swings behind him, more tasty guitar with Rusty Farmer on standup bass and Aaron Binder on drums. On Loser, again floated by Heid’s sweet organ, He sings that losing is all he does, but he hasn’t lost his love for his honey. Taquito Under My Seat is an instrumental tango that gets feet tapping. Heid is a master on piano here. TV Mamma is another superb acoustic harp blow with more of that contagious Angerer guitar in the mix. This is one of Crandall’s best on the set. On Dirty Pete the groove is a 40s-style swinger. His friend Dirty Pete is a lady’s man and he’s confused by it. He is a “rancid man/but the ladies won’t leave you alone.” Fun song with a metronomic Johnny Hott drum driving it. Figgy Bag is a fiery instrumental on which our hero blows with power and finesse. On the closing Bolivar Blues, the band shines. Aaron Binder’s brushes, Farmer’s solid bass, Heid’s jazzy filigrees and some of the finest harp you’ll hear all year. — Mark E. Gallo
Big City Blues (USA)
Blues in Britain
Harmonicist/vocalist Kurt Crandall’s second recording (GET WRONG WITH ME) is loaded with chops that point to a brilliant player steeped in, but not bogged down by his roots. He’s a master of West Coast-swing meets Chicago. The Lucky Millinder, Snooky Pryor, Sonny Boy Williamson and Willie Dixon covers are first rate, but the originals are generally the standouts. Something of a William Clarke devote, he’s got a sly sense of humor, a great band (check guitarist Karl Angerer on “Late Night Rendezvous”), and the surprise hit of the year. Blues Bytes (USA) Whilst there is quite a strong Chicago harp influence running through the album, the overall sound is more West Coast than Chicago. Every now and again, Crandall will throw in some jazzy phrasing. This is most notable on the opening to "Sammy," which opens out into a Louis Jordan style song. This style is also used to very good effect on "Eeep Opp Ork Ah Ah"--a title Jordan would have been proud of! The first eight tracks on the album are all originals, but the album rounds off with a trio of covers. "Bumpity Bump," which is most usually associated with Smiley Lewis is followed by a fine extended workout on SBWI's "My Little Machine." The last word is left to "Evans Shuffle"--attributed here to Little Walter, rather than Muddy Waters--which takes things home in style. Harp fans in particular will find much to admire on "True Story." If you are looking for reference points, William Clarke and R.J. Mischo are probably the nearest thing to the band's overall sound. Crandall gets excellent support throughout, with guitarists Karl Angerer and Pete Kanaras working particulalrly well together. "True Story" offers plenty of promising signs that mark Kurt Crandall as a talent to watch out for.
Blues on Stage (USA)
Many try to make the road to success. However, only few are successful in it. Kurt Crandall should not have any problems on his journey. With his debut CD he gives more than just a taste of his talent. The stylistic variety is immense. It ranges from Chicago blues with a light retro touch to West coast sound to shuffles, swing and jump. Most of his songs are originals as he always makes sure to bring in his humor in the best storytelling tradition. Crandall’s harmonica playing is clear, sometimes even lyric, but can change suddenly into a strong and brilliant sound. In addition, this american artist is a brilliant singer with great potential. The accompanying musicians (most are from Lee McBee's Band) give the whole piece even more life and vitality. In conclusion it is an album that brings about the joy of blues music. It looks like that there is a great blues musician on the rise. Look out for him...
Kurt has done his homework very thoroughly, every landmark harp player gets a look, not by slavish mimicking but simply with a lick or a phrase here & there. Chicago grind, westcoast swing, late-club cool & Kansas City Jump styles are all represented & with a bunch of Kansas City's finest sidemen onboard, how can Kurt Crandall's "True Story" ever fail?
Blues FreePress (UK)
The content of Kurt Crandall's debut album promises to soon make him a familiar name throughout Europe. Originally Mr. Crandall comes from the East coast of the US (Maine) but now resides in Atlanta, Georgia. For the recording of this CD he chose the best of the best: blues musicians from Kansas City such as Jaisson Taylor, drummer from Lee Mc Bee who had been with Joe Louis Walker and Bill Withers, Karl Angerer with his guitarre and Ralph Ybarre who had been with Lee McBee as well. Last but not least, Pete Kanaras who had been the guitarist with Nighthawks for many years. Eight out of eleven songs are from Crandall himself. What is offered is remarkable: a production without flaws which is, above that, a very interesting and good mix of Chicago Blues, West Coast Swing and Kansas City Jump. The work behind this production, the vocals (which remind one a little bit of Chad Strentz) and the songs from these newcomers are persuasive right from the beginning. Fans should remember this name and buy the CD.
In "True Story" Kurt mainly concentrates on his blues harmonica. But, make no mistake, he can also sing very well. The CD pays tribute to the classical fifties blues. We hear clear West Coast and Kansas City influences as well as an ode to the Chicago blues. With the help of guitarists Karl Angerer and Pete Kanaras (who compliment each other very successfully), this became the CD that Kurt Crandall had always wanted to make. Well, it was high time, Kurt! "True Story" needs to be played regularly and becomes better each time it is played. Guaranteed! The result is sultry harmonica music, aged, honest and intensely swinging; hopefully it does not end with this debut CD, but for the time being we will cherish and value this one like the jewel it is.
This is a contemporary performance highlighting several classic harp styles with a strong harp performance and stylish vocals from Crandall. Accompanied by Karl Angerer on guitar, Mike Sedovic on piano, Ralph Ybarra on bass, and Jaisson Taylor on drums, Crandall sparks this band with real Jump fire. Right from the beginning I was hearing lots of styles from Jump to Jazz and I can definitely feel the Jump and big band past, here. Cab Calloway comes to mind on "Sammy." Crandall's vocals are very strong and confident. Crandall writes the first eight songs on the disc and shows wit and flexibility. The disc closes with three covers, catch the Dave Bartholomew's classic "Bumpity Bump" and get prepared to dance. This stuff makes you want to hit the floor and git it! Angerer's guitar work is agile and it shows on every cut. When Crandall works out for more than nine minutes on Sonny Boy I's classic "My Little Machine," you'll swear that William Clarke is in the house! Slow, slow, slow, and precise. What great feeling on the chromatic harp! Little Walter's "Evan's Shuffle" features some fine work on harp and is pretty powerful - it is a fine tribute to a master. This is definitely a CD that you have to inhale and soon! Kurt Crandall is a fine up-and-coming frontman. I see good things ahead for this Bluesman.