Billy Colwell

Billy Colwell
Live Volume I

YOUtopia INstitute

By Lady K
August 2011

Lady K has been very lucky recently; the blues gods have been especially benevolent, sending her lots of great blues to listen to, enjoy and write about. And, continuing with the good luck, Billy Colwell Live appeared in Lady K’s mailbox, and provided some newer ‘old’ blues, R&B, rock ‘n roll, and jazz tunes played by the late, great Billy Colwell and his band. The liner notes enclosing this CD tell a little about Billy Colwell: Rama Demetrius Dyushambee /aka: E. D. Harris (from the band), praises Colwell as a bluesman, a musician, and a friend – one gone way too soon. People listening to this CD will mourn anew, a blues-man lost to the music world in 1974, when he was rendered unable to make music - the result of an attempted suicide.

Billy Colwell’s Blues & Jazz Band (with Billy as band-leader and on lead guitar), included Tony Harrington on vocals and rhythm guitar, Raymond McDonald on bass, Joe Livolsi on drums, George DeCarolis on trumpet, and Rama Demetrius Dyushambee on alto sax. The tracks on this CD were recorded during gigs in 1970-1974 at the Speakeasy and Joe’s Place (clubs in Cambridge, MA), Paul’s Mall and the Jazz Workshop (clubs in Boston) and My Father’s Place (in Roslyn, Long Island, NY).

The long intro to “Git Off” has a big band swing sound, and the tune just begs for finger-snapping – to accompany the jazzy sax and insane guitar solos. “No Time To Waste” has a minute or so of lyrics, “history lives in the 45 on the side of my hip – at the park I saw my brother shot down to the ground.” Those few words are followed by about 8 minutes of some of the heaviest guitar blues I’ve heard – I had to listen 3 times to catch the lyrics, but got so lost in the guitar I kept forgetting to jot them down - that guitar, a monumental memoir to a brother gone too soon? A quick tempo and jazzy blues comprise another mostly instrumental tune – “Got To Have That Disease.” This tune emphasizes keyboard and horns, but some guitar and drum duo/solo bits blend well and result in yet one more memorable, magic happening on this CD.

“Somebody Loan Me a Dime” is 15+ minutes of instrumentals, which seem to go on FOREVER. In this track that’s not a good thing, it’s a helluva great thing; and the best title on the disc is “(Who Knows?)” – an instrumental (which is why it couldn’t be named – 40 years later) has a jazzy, upbeat tempo with soulful, amazing (there’s that word again), huge, guitar stuff going on.

If you remember Billy Colwell, you’re gonna want this disc; if you’ve never heard of the man until now, but you want to learn about him, you’re gonna want this disc.

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