Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’ Blues

Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’ Blues
Country Man

Vizztone

By Art Tipaldi
August 2010

A country man wears overalls, likes the smell of dirt and rain, and loves dogs and tractors. After a day of hard work, he sits on the porch with his barefooted woman, listens to Willie Nelson, and drinks his sweet tea out of a mason jar. These are some of the nostalgic, down home virtues Mac Arnold extols on his newest record.

A follow-up to his well received 2007 Backbone and Gristle, the new record, produced by Bob Margolin, centers its 13 tunes squarely in the Chicago electric blues. As a veteran of that scene who played with Muddy Waters, A.C. Reed, John Lee Hooker and others, Arnold understands how important guitar, harmonica, and voice are to this music. Though his roots are from the 1960s, Arnold’s arrangements, lyrics and voice come feel thoroughly contemporary.

Arnold does not shy away from lyrics that offer hope in today’s world. This CD opens with “I Ain’t Sugar Coatin’,” real time advice about our world today without the rose colored glasses.

After that, Arnold lets his country guy themes take over the next three.

“Farmer” celebrates the virtues of those who work the land; nothing is old about “This Ol’ Tractor” where Arnold’s playin’ his homemade, gas can guitar and Max Hightower’s blowin’ a supercharged harmonica while they are riding the John Deere; and the title cut also soars with Hightower’s dirty and distorted harp.

By the end of the record, Arnold’s country man is going modern when he trades “Mule For A Chevrolet.”

With only acoustic instruments, Margolin and Arnold reminisce on Muddy’s “Screamin’ and Cryin’.” Margolin’s veteran slide and Arnold’s aged voice would make the old man very proud of these “sons.”

Arnold’s other blues songs include “True To You,” and the blues rockin’ “Too Much,” with Austin Brashier’s shreddin’ guitar melding with Margolin’s rockin’ solo.

There’s more than just good blues here. Arnold is also known for his R&B work after the Waters band. “Holdin’ On To Lettin’ Go” wraps his advice to parents in a gorgeous, melody. Brashier’s emphatic guitar tells as much as Arnold’s warm voice. His country affinity shines on “Cackalacky Twang” and the record closes the band’s jazzy take on “Swing Me Back Home,” where Brashier’s string bends bounce off Arnold’s thundering bass lines.

In all, Arnold continues to record smart music that sounds like it was born in Chicago’s South side, but never gets old feeling.

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