Doug MacLeod lives down the road from me a piece, over there in Loh-mee-tah (Lomita, Calif.) if I've got it right, but I've always managed to miss when he played the Cafe Boogaloo (Hermosa Beach) and other local bluesholes, Boulevard Music included (Culver City). Nonetheless, ya hafta be kind of a Philistine if you love the blues and don't have at least a few of Doug's discs. In '89, I discovered the guy when I snagged his 54th and Vermont CD, 'cause I knew exactly where the photo on the liner was and was myself working and interning nights in holistic medicine at 8th and Vermont. Because it was known I dug the Nighthawks, Juke Jumpers, Siegel-Schwall, Mayall, etc., I'd been hipped up to him. The area hereabouts boasts quite a few great guitar players: Mark Fitchett, James Musser, Barry Levenson, Bernie Pearl, MacLeod himself, etc., so it's hard not to be dialed in to that kind of thing. Sure enough, all these fretbenders were right: 54th hit the spot. I loved, and still very much love, the Chicago sound, but Doug's a great exponent of Delta ruminations and afforded one of the first non-Dr. John exposures to a zydeco-ey atmosphere for my ears in Doo La, a track that Ry Cooder or Taj Mahal would've been happy to have written.
There's a Time, however, falls more in line with what Rory Block's been doing, revivalist and to-the-bone conscious of the true wellsprings of the blues. The format here is just bass, drums, guitar, and voice, and MacLeod's paying a great deal of attention to how vocals were inflected back in the day. Unlike Block, however, this isn't a tribute release, and all the songs were written by the MacLeod. They just sound like they came from old 'race records', that's all. Strikingly, Doug only ever plays his own materials live, has over 300 songs to select from when doing so, and has been covered by the likes of Albert Collins, Eva Cassiday, Albert King, Pee Wee Crayton, and quite an impressive roster of greats.
He also writes riveting lyrics, and every one of these songs will demonstrate why he's earned the moniker of 'the storytelling bluesman'. In more than one way, this way hip hound' dawg is doing what Ben Sidran's done yet putting it out in a distinctively different way, though St. Elmo's Room and Pool could have come straight out of Sidran's pen—and that's a way high compliment, not a snipe. You find yourself having to listen to the stories and commentaries being woven while concurrently infected by the argot, feeling as though the whole gig is happening just up the street from your house. Once you dig that, you're trapped, you'll never get out of the mode again, nor will you want to. The fact that the ambience of Time is restrained—quiet but tuneful, spare but shimmering—is deceptive because the craft of the whole is to not only talk face to face but to also sneak up behind. You'll find more than a few people you know in this disc, and some you don't, maybe one or two you'll even cast the stink-eye at.
Lastly, this particular release is put out by Reference Recordings, long famed, along with MFSL, Nautilus, and others, for their state of the art sound, not to mention that ol' live-to-two-track delight: everything from the instruments and voices straight into the mikes, no overdubs. I can't say for sure that was the case, that two-track gig per se, but it sure as hell sounds like it, pristine to a fare thee well, mastered half-speed, too. But don't take my word for it, just listen. And don't just listen; when the line's being laid down, pick it up and groove.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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