Sure, it's a gimmick, using a snatch of answering machine message A complete with beep A to begin a song (check out Mick Taylor's bleary whining in the intro to John Mayall's "Wake Up Call"). But when that message is from none other than the great R&B shouter Jerry McCain, and Jerry is reciting lyrics to one of his hits --"Ding Dong Daddy" -- you kinda want to share your elation.
And that's just what Austin harmonica king Gary Primich does on his raucous reprise of McCain's classic, one of fourteen tracks on this solid new disc. Primich is no McCain when it comes to singing (he's closer to white interpreters such as Kim Wilson and William Clarke, though he manages to sound appropriately jive on a cover of Louis Jordan's "Knock Me a Kiss"), but he beautifully nails the feel and swing of Forties and Fifties R&B, thanks to some crackerjack backing and, of course, his Little Walter-inspired blues harp. Like fellow Austinite Wilson (of Thunderbirds fame), Primich makes full use of the fuzzy distortion afforded by blowing harp hard as hell into a handheld mike, a practice made de rigueur by Walter.
Primich digs deeper into the blues trunk, offering a couple of acoustic gems such as Sonny Boy Williamson's "She Was a Dreamer" and Memphis Slim's "Beer Drinkin' Woman." But his real forte is jukebox boogie, the kind that rolled out of the barrelhouses and into the clubs of Memphis, Kansas City, Chicago. Primich's original material, from the rollicking "House Rockin' Party" to the Mose Allison-cool "School of Hard Knocks" (featuring some icy licks from guitarist Shorty Lenoir, who shines throughout) to the speed-limit-defying "Put the Hammer Down" are loving and well-crafted tributes to the genre.
Two other standouts: an instrumental romp through Duke Ellington's "Caravan," which retains its Cotton Club sophistication despite being played on the most down-home of all instruments, and the title track, a bouncy N'Awlin's ditty recorded some twenty years ago by Dr. John.
Great driving music, Travelin' Mood will put you in one.
-- Bob Weinberg
Gary Primich performs tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday night at 10:00 at Tobacco Road, 626 S Miami Ave; 374-1198. Admission is six dollars.