" High Steppin' "
Luna Chica Records
BluesWax Rating: 6
"Marty Grebb has an impressive resume, but Bob Putignano feels that the one-man band effort on "High Steppin'" just doesn't work. Read why." Chip Eagle for Blueswax
No High Marks for High Steppin'
I originally became familiarized with Marty Grebb when he was one of three featured players in the long-ago defunct Fabulous Rhinestones band, who were a very solid unit that wrote excellent tunes, and played furiously. The two other leaders were bassist Harvey Brooks (Al Kooper, Miles Davis, and countless others) and Kal David. From time to time the Rhinestones (from Woodstock, New York) also employed the likes of Paul Butterfield (no introductions necessary) and (ditto) the great David Sanborn's sax. Even though there was only one other Grebb solo album (a 1999 Telarc release titled Smooth Sailin') he was consistently utilized as a sideman, producer, and/or composer for B.B. King, Otis Rush, Bonnie Raitt, Clapton, Etta James, Buddy Guy, Aaron Neville, Taj Mahal, Willie Nelson, Leon Russell (who co-contributes two tunes here), and many others. These are nice credits indeed, and Grebb's obviously stayed active on the scene. Which brings us to 2011's High Steppin', featuring the sixty-six-year-old Grebb on everything, in other-words he employs no sidemen and plays every instrument. Is this a good idea? Please read on. Eleven tracks are original, all but one ("Walkin' the Dog" by Rufus Thomas) were either authored or co-authored by Grebb.
The first thing that struck me about this album was the full sound Grebb was able to generate; the band sounds full and fat, and he sings pretty well too. The first two tracks were co-authored by Leon Russell, "Heartbreaker" and "Can't Get You Out of My Mind," are formidable but not very memorable. The instrumental "Clifford's Mood" (according to Grebb's liners) is a dedication to the great sax-player Clifford Scott (think "Honky-Tonk") with Bill Doggett, and it's a good version. "Dem Dat Know" was co-authored by the recently deceased Bobby Charles and definitely has the Louisiana vibe. But as I made my way through High Steppin' Grebb's vocals began to wear on me, and the songs were not as well written. Even at the midway point of the album on "Walkin' the Dog" (a forever favorite of mine) drags along at a slow pace, and there are still six more songs to go. Of the final six tunes, the only song that grabbed my attention well was "One Night," a sweet B3 and keyboard stroll that is reminiscent of something Ray Charles might have considered covering. It's a high point of the album for sure, but not enough to rescue the entire recording.
I had high hopes for this disc, but playing all of the instruments in a one-man band is not only an artistic challenge, it's precariously ambitious too. Unfortunately it is just one of the facets that fail this recording. Couple that with (for the most part) ordinary song-writing, and it just might be another ten to twelve more years before the next Grebb album. That is if there isn't a Fabulous Rhinestones reunion. Come on, bring those guys back!
Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at www.SoundsofBlue.com. Bob maybe contacted at: email@example.com
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com