Give it away

By Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
April 2016

Visit artist page

Mac Arnold and Plateful O' Blues

"Give it Away"

Plantation #1 Productions

By Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro

Although Give It Away is his first release in five years, by no means has Mac Arnold been resting on his laurels. And knowing him as I do, I'd be willing to bet that won't ever happen. Between writing music, touring and recording with the band, putting on his annual Cornbread and Collard Greens Blues Festival, owning and operating an organic farm and being the proprietor of Dr. Mac Arnold's Blues Restaurant, Mac - who seems to have discovered the fountain of youth - is having the time of his life. I gotta get me some of those collard greens.

Mac Arnold and Plate Full O' Blues include: Mac Arnold - of course - on bass guitar, vocals & gas can guitar; Austin Brasher on guitars and vocals; Max Hightower on harmonica, keyboard, vocals & bass guitar; and Scotty Hawkins on percussion. Of the albums 13 tracks, 11 are various band member originals.

The disc opens with a song Mac wrote about an earlier time in his career, when he spent most of his life on the road. It's titled "Nickel and Dime" - and because of dealing with some unscrupulous shysters back then, Mac unfortunately had neither. The sincerity spoken through Mac's scratchy vocals is evidence that these blues were truly lived. Musically, Austin and Max sound great on several guitar and piano leads.

With Mac and Scotty in a tight rhythm groove behind him, Max takes the lead on "Damned If I Do", a song he also wrote. Besides his skillful multi-instrumental talents, Max - as he's doing right here - can belt the hell out of the blues as well. I'm thinking it's not all that long before I'm sitting here doing this on one of his solo projects.

"I ain't tryin' to put other music down, but if it wasn't for the blues it would not be around. You may think I'm talkin' silly, but the blues is the real "Nitty Gritty" (Max). Well said Mac! This is a fun (and Mac's having a lot of it himself) up tempo rocker that pays tribute to some of the genres legends and the thieves who stole their music.

"I need you like a drunk needs whiskey" may not be one of the more traditional love lines but it does make a point. Especially since when Max wrote "How I Need You", it wasn't just about someone you love but someone you're also addicted to. Musically, it appears to be a duet with Mac and Scotty performing magic on the gas can guitar and the percussion while Mac sings his heart out.

It's interesting the way it came about Mac doing a version of a Brook Benton song made popular by Bobby "Blue" Bland. While hanging out at the Blues Music Awards, Mac told Bobby he wanted to do one of his songs. Never being quite satisfied with the way he did it himself, Bobby urged Mac to do "I'll Take Care Of You".

Now although I have to disagree with Bobby (yes, I just went and listened to his version on the "Two Steps from The Blues" CD), Mac does nail it. Anyone who has never heard the song would be hard pressed to believe that Mac didn't write it for - and is singing it to - someone in his life. Right here is where the term "making it your own" comes into play. Musically, the song gets it's heartbeat from Mac's precision pickin' on the gas can guitar and Max's masterful organ chords. Since it's been some forty-something years since Bobby did it, this listener is happy to have heard this beautiful love song once again beautifully done. Thank you, Mac!

Speaking of some precision pickin', Austin's doing some of his own on a track he wrote called "Memories". It's a duet with him on acoustic guitar and vocals and Max on harmonica. As I was with Max, I'm equally impressed with Austin's powerful and compelling vocals as well. With the vibe I'm feeling from this one, I'm thinking if Austin can get the song in the right country singers hands he'll have himself a hit.

Other Tracks on "Give It Away" include: "Don't Burn My Cornbread", "Uncle Dewitt's Cafe" (both by Mac), "Give It Away", "Train Smoke", "Relationship Man" (All by Max), "Fool Hearted Lover" (Austin), and "Amos Moses" (J. R. Hubbard).

Since I'm done here, you should now be heading to www.macarnold.com. That's where you'll be able to find out a whole lot more about the band, pick up some of their music and of course, tell them the Blewzzman sent you.

Mac Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient

<- back to Features