Independent Release

By Tony Del Rey
March 2013

Just when you thought you’d heard everything within the spectrum of blues-based entertainment comes a disc that puts a new spin on old, familiar themes: a blues/rock album intended for children. The brainchild of former Blues Head front man Steve Pierson, Hootenanny is a 14-song collection of easily adaptable, first-generation rock ‘n’ roll tunes set to lulling melodies that feature inventive, kid-friendly lyrics to suit young ears.

It’s easy to see how Pierson’s re-working of classic song structures as the basis for his material might connect with young audiences. The instant familiarity of a 50s piano standard like Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” provides all the rhythmic spark needed to engage even the most puerile of listeners. When put to comedic use - such as it is in the silly sing-along, “Don’t Play With Your Food” - the laughter becomes contagious.

“Don’t play with your food... It could fall down on the floor… If it falls down on the floor… It really isn’t food no more.”

But Hootenanny isn’t just a ragbag of song parodies and novelty tunes. The album’s core group of musicians, collectively known as “Jambo,” back Pierson’s varied guitar playing in fine style, padding out the album’s overall sound with bass and keyboard over a galloping back beat. Even some soul brass, courtesy of the Texicali Horns, finds its way onto a handful of tracks, lending a degree of serious musicianship to what are otherwise pre-adolescent themes.

While Pierson’s strong emotional bond with kids is commendable, his true identity as a dyed-in-the-wool bluesman and rocker bubbles just beneath the surface, as evidenced by the inclusion of “Brand New Day.”

A rolling, 4/4 piano-based moderato, this track detours from the kiddy-ride rock ‘n’ roll numbers and string-strummed ditties that Hootenanny is long on. “Brand New Day” exudes a Christian praise band’s gift for uplifting flagging spirits through song. And though Pierson’s word-and-a-smile lyrical sentiment is very much at the fore, it’s the folk rock guitar break at the bridge that gives him away - a gritty little acoustic jam that Jambo might have vamped on for the remainder of the disc, had the spirit moved them.

Whatever guise Pierson and his confederates choose to adopt as part of their next recording project, the team will be hard-pressed to top Hootenanny in terms of turning a non sequitur like “blues for children” into a career-defining moment. It may be an idea that goes no farther than across the street, but at least someone is thinking of the possibilities!

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