Eric "Guitar" Davis & The Troublemakers - "Trouble Makin' Man"

Although I do LOVE the blues, it’s not in my nature to rave wildly about music in general. That being said, Trouble Makin’ Man, the latest release by up-and-coming Chicago blues artist Eric “Guitar” Davis & The Troublemakers, is my favorite new blues CD of the year!!!

First, a bit of background: Eric “Guitar” Davis hails from the south side of Chicago (a historically fertile ground for some of the best Chicago blues). He started his music career as a drummer, backing the likes of Junior Wells, Lefty Dizz, and other Chicago blues legends. A chance encounter with Buddy Guy at a local club resulted in Guy showing Davis his first chord on the guitar. The rest, they say, is history. Davis currently plays locally in Chicago and around the world with his band, The Troublemakers, a tight blues combo with piano/keyboards, bass, drums, and two guitars.

I first saw Eric “Guitar” Davis play at Buddy Guy’s Legends. In a live setting, Davis is a compelling bluesman, playing with dynamics in his singing and guitar playing (incorporating tricks like distortion and occasionally singing away from the microphone), and walking through and interacting directly with his audiences. I bought his first CD (2007's Here Comes Trouble) off the bandstand, which only hinted at his live charisma. Well, I’m happy to report that his second CD, Trouble Makin’ Man, is more representative of his stage performance!

The title track kicks off the record, and as Davis himself sings, you’re “gonna have some real big fun” throughout this album. “Trouble Makin’ Man” is a uptempo funky tune, that will get your hips movin’ and your head shakin’ with his outstanding guitar soloing. Even the slower, introspective songs on this CD sound exciting and make you want to bob your head and/or shake your hips to the music! There are elements of contemporary R&B in several of the songs here (including “Love Song” and “You’re Goin’ Down”), but they never sound like attempts to crossover to more mainstream audiences; it’s simply Eric “Guitar” Davis playing the blues as he himself feels them in the 21st century. I particularly enjoy the subtly Latin feel of “You’re Goin’ Down”, easily one of my favorite cuts on this CD. For fans of classic blues sounds, Davis still delivers the goods, with a New Orleans feel on “Ew-Wee” and a gospel-tinged cover of Jimmy Burns’ “No Consideration”. Ronnie Baker Brooks, another great contemporary Chicago Blues artist, appears in a few spots on this album, specifically co-writing and co-producing “Days Of My Life” (a fine R&B-tinged blues track) and appearing on “Dolla Queen”. There are also some lively spoken-word moments on “Dolla Queen” and “I Met a Little Girl”, which add to the overall fun, feel-good atmosphere of Trouble Makin’ Man.

I can’t find enough adjectives to describe how much I love this album. Start to finish, this has to be my favorite blues CD of 2011! For more information, check out ericguitardavis.com.


Señor Blues Celebrates The 2011 Chicago Blues Festival!

Greetings, blues lovers!

I have returned from a trip to the Chicago Blues Festival, and I'm raring to share my experiences and musical discoveries with you! Tune into to CJSR tomorrow morning for an overview of the wonderful artists who graced the stages at this year's festival, including Eric "Guitar" Davis & The Troublemakers, Johanna Connor, Magic Slim & The Teardrops, and many more.



Artist Spotlight: Lefty Dizz

Although he is generally a lesser-known musician in Chicago Blues history, singer-guitarist Lefty Dizz was a larger-than-life figure during his career. Combining spectacular stage antics with an aggressive sound, he could be considered a trailblazing pioneer of a performing style that has become highly revered by both blues and rock audiences.

Lefty Dizz was born in Arkensas in 1937. During his teens, he began playing the guitar and honing his performance style. Like fellow southpaw guitarists Albert King and Otis Rush, Dizz taught himself how to play a right-handed guitar upside down (i.e. left-handed), resulting in a unique sound and playing style. His sound was further distinguished by incorporating rural blues influences, a very different approach to the more sophisticated, urban sounds coming out of big cities like Memphis and New Orleans. Dizz eventually moved to Chicago in the early 1960s and quickly became a fixture on the south side blues scene, where he was famous for his rowdy and raucous shows; these included tricks such as throwing his axe back and forth between his hands, playing with one hand, and experimenting with distortion and wild string-bending.

While his own wild performances may have been a way to secure his gigs and prevent other young upstarts from overshadowing him on the bandstand, Dizz was highly respected by Chicago blues elders and peers alike. He was often welcomed to sit in on their club gigs and was hired as a sideman by local musicians, including Junior Wells and Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers. Listening to Junior Wells’ 1968 album, Coming At You, for example, it is interesting to hear how Dizz toned down his aggressive guitar playing to be a tastefully effective rhythm guitarist behind Wells’ singing and harp playing and Buddy Guy’s leads. According to the monologue that opens his cover of Taylor’s “Sadie” on his 1989 album, Ain’t It Nice To Be Loved?, Dizz was also the last rhythm guitarist to play in The HouseRockers, before Taylor died in 1975.

Though a hardworking bluesman, Dizz never made the leap from local fame to international stardom. This may be partly because he was under-recorded throughout his career. Though he managed to make a few recordings for European labels like Isabel and JSP, they were simply not reflective of his fantastic live performances on his home turf, possibly due to budgetary and/or technological constraints. His last album, Ain’t It Nice To Be Loved, features Dizz with the Bell family backing him up (including Carey Bell on harmonica and Lurrie Bell on the guitar), but it proves to be a challenging listening experience, due to the raw, uninhibited nature of the performances and the band’s out-of-tune instruments. There are some gems on these few albums, though, that do hint at Dizz’s live charisma. Plus, in this day and age, it’s (relatively) easy to find the odd video evidence of Dizz’s club performances, including this video from the Checkerboard Lounge (www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y6yMkbNZyw …dig that cowboy hat, too!). Sadly, he was diagnosed with cancer in the early 1990s and passed away in 1993.

While his music is not for the faint at heart, Lefty Dizz is still worth checking out if you enjoy hearing great blues guitar and want to walk on the wild side of the blues!

- AllMusic.com: Lefty Dizz
- Russell, Tony, et al. The Penguin Guide to Blues Recordings. 2006
- Liner notes to Ain't It Nice To Be Loved (1989)