Kurt Crandall
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Kurt Crandall

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"Kurt Crandall's TRUE STORY"

There is certainly a glut of harmonica players around in the moment, with new names appearing almost daily. However, Chicago based Kurt Crandall is a bit special. Sure he can blow with the best of them and he has a good voice, but what makes him stand out is his witty songwriting. "Marinara Mambo is a tale of a woman who does all kinds of unmentionable things with hot sauce, and "Sammy" is about his lady who calls out the wrong name when they are making love - no problem, though, he'll change his name! There's a great band in support with nice piano from Mike Sedovic and tasty guitar by Karl Angerer. Enjoyable stuff. - Juke Blues (UK)


"Delightful New Talent!"

Man, sometimes the Blues surprises you. It pops up out of nowhere and you wonder where you've been. That's the way that Kurt Crandall's True Story is ... it just sneaks up on you. It crawled up my Blues spine and opened my mind, leaving me surprised and delighted.

This is a contemporary performance highlighting several classic harp styles with a strong harp performance and stylish vocals from Crandall. Accompanied by Karl Angerer on guitar, Mike Sedovic on piano, Ralph Ybarra on bass, and Jaisson Taylor on drums, Crandall sparks this band with real Jump fire. Right from the beginning I was hearing lots of styles from Jump to Jazz and I can definitely feel the Jump and big band past, here. Cab Calloway comes to mind on "Sammy." Crandall's vocals are very strong and confident. "Ella Roo Blues" is a straight Blues, but with clever lyrics and straight-ahead vocals.

Crandall writes the first eight songs on the disc and shows wit and flexibility. The disc closes with three covers, catch the Dave Bartholomew's classic "Bumpity Bump" and get prepared to dance. This stuff makes you want to hit the floor and git it! Angerer's guitar work is agile and it shows on every cut. There is some mis-mixing, with the guitar too far in the background, but it doesn't take away from the effect that the music is immediate. When Crandall works out for more than nine minutes on Sonny Boy I's classic "My Little Machine," you'll swear that William Clarke is in the house! Slow, slow, slow, and precise. What great feeling on the chromatic harp! Little Walter's "Evan's Shuffle" features some fine work on harp and is pretty powerful - it is a fine tribute to a master.

This is definitely a CD that you have to inhale and soon! Kurt Crandall is a fine up-and-coming frontman. I see good things ahead for this Bluesman - BluesWax (USA)


"Aged, Honest and Intensely Swinging"

In "True Story" Kurt mainly concentrates on his blues harmonica. But, make no mistake, he can also sing very well. The CD pays tribute to the classical fifties blues. We hear clear West Coast and Kansas City influences as well as an ode to the Chicago blues. With the help of guitarists Karl Angerer and Pete Kanaras (who compliment each other very successfully), this became the CD that Kurt Crandall had always wanted to make. Well, it was high time, Kurt! "True Story" needs to be played regularly and becomes better each time it is played. Guaranteed! The result is sultry harmonica music, aged, honest and intensely swinging; hopefully it does not end with this debut CD, but for the time being we will cherish and value this one like the jewel it is.
- Rootstime (Belgium)


"Mighty Impressive Stuff"

Cool, the most appropriate epithet for this set. Singer and harmonica Man Kurt reminds me very strongly of Little Charlie & The Nite Cats Frontman Rick Estrin in quite a few places here, and that's no bad thing at all in my book. The opening "But One Regret" has Rice Miller inspired harp-playing,and never having seen old Sonny Boy live myself, the nearest I have ever got is Rick's wonderful tribute - audibly this rivals it. “Marinara Mambo” recalls Estrin's sly way with words and arrangements and “Sammy” is one of those jazzy, slightly sleazy Coasters/ Leiber & Stoller styled compositions. Mighty impressive stuff and things continue in this vein, with a bit of jump-blues, some humour and covers from the likes of John Lee (Sonny Boy No 1) Williamson and Muddy/ Little Walter. The borrowing from the former shows some imagination, with “My Little Machine” being taken as an intense Slow blues, whilst the latter comes courtesy of the closing instrumental “Evans Shuffle”. Kurt is of the Sugar Ray Norcia and Curtis Salgado school, with assured, laid-back vocals but preferring to keep his harmonica work either diatonic or chromatic until he feels it will be most appropriate, and that is certainly the case here, saving the best till last, at least harp-wise. Originally from Bangor, Maine, Kurt is now based in Atlanta, Georgia after a lengthy spell in Kansas City. He has assembled some of KC's finest to accompany him (several from Lee McBee's band), with guitarists Karl Angerer and Pete Kanaras particularly noteworthy, though with such a varied and always successful approach, it seems churlish to single anyone out for special praise apart from Kurt that is, and his name should rapidly become familiar both to those fans of the current crop of young harp men and to followers of the cool and classy singers already mentioned in this review.

Rating: 8 - Norman Darwen - Blues in Britain


"Great Blues Musician on the Rise"

Many try to make the road to success. However, only few are successful. Kurt Crandall should not have any problems on his journey. With his debut CD he gives more than just a taste of his talent. The stylistic variety is immense. It ranges from Chicago blues with a light retro touch to West coast sound to shuffles, swing and jump. Most of his songs are originals as he always makes sure to bring in his humor in the best storytelling tradition. Crandall’s harmonica playing is clear, sometimes even lyric, but can change suddenly into a strong and brilliant sound. In addition, this american artist is a brilliant singer with great potential. The accompanying musicians (most are from Lee McBee's Band) give the whole piece even more life and vitality. In conclusion it is an album that brings about the joy of blues music. It looks like that there is a great blues musician on the rise. Look out for him...
- Concerto (Austria)


"Talent to Watch Out For..."

Since graduating in 1991 harp player Kurt Crandall has been on a musical and intellectual sojourn that has taken him to several places in the US. After passing through Charlottesville, Kansas City, Washington DC and Macon, Georgia he recently wound up in Atlanta. It is the influence of the harp playing of Sonny Boy Williamson II and Little Walter in particular that come through most strongly though.

The SBWII influence shines through strongly on the opener, "But One Regret." Crandall has a good voice and a nice fat tone to his harp playing. There is a retro feel to this track which persists throughout the album, which is helped by the use of vintage instruments and amplification. Having said that, the band never really sound dated.

Whilst there is quite a strong Chicago harp influence running through the album, the overall sound is more West Coast than Chicago. Every now and again, Crandall will throw in some jazzy phrasing. This is most notable on the opening to "Sammy," which opens out into a Louis Jordan style song. This style is also used to very good effect on "Eeep Opp Ork Ah Ah"--a title Jordan would have been proud of!

The first eight tracks on the album are all originals, but the album rounds off with a trio of covers. "Bumpity Bump," which is most usually associated with Smiley Lewis is followed by a fine extended workout on SBWI's "My Little Machine." The last word is left to "Evans Shuffle"--attributed here to Little Walter, rather than Muddy Waters--which takes things home in style.

Harp fans in particular will find much to admire on "True Story." If you are looking for reference points, William Clark and R.J. Mischo are probably the nearest thing to the band's overall sound. Crandall gets excellent support throughout, with guitarists Karl Angerer and Pete Kanaras working particulalrly well together. "True Story" offers plenty of promising signs that mark Kurt Crandall out as a talent to watch out for. - Blues on Stage (USA)


Discography

GET WRONG WITH ME (2009) - YesterYear Records
TRUE STORY (2004) - Relevant Records

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Bio

Born in Bangor, Maine Kurt showed an early interest and aptitude for music. It was not until college, however, that he was first exposed to the blues. During his senior year, he noticed a seldom played LP in his roommate's record bin. He dusted off the platter and was soon mesmerized by the sounds of post-war Chicago blues. Little did he know that the album, Muddy Water's Sail On, would change his life forever. Following graduation, Kurt took his new found appreciation for the blues and headed south to Virginia. Walking along the streets one summer night, Kurt heard a familiar sound in the distance and followed the music to an outdoor bar where a local blues band was playing. Kurt was particularly drawn to the mournful and expressive tones the harp player was able to coax out of his small instrument. At that moment Kurt realized his new mission in life was to learn the blues harmonica. The harmonica player in the band that night, Fulton Patrick, soon became a friend and mentor. Although he did not believe in formal lessons, Patrick would share tips during set breaks and offer listening suggestions – he insisted on a daily musical diet of Little Walter, Big Walter and Sonny Boy.

Following his advice, Kurt dedicated himself to learning the instrument and honing his craft. Practice and persistence paid off, as music has taken Kurt throughout the United States with stops in Kansas City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Macon, Georgia, Chicago and most recently Seattle. After years as a sideman in Kansas City Kurt finally stepped out front to lead a band - playing frequently with members of Lee McBee's current band - Karl Angerer on Guitar, Patrick REcob (formerly with Gary Primich) on bass and Jaisson Taylor (Little Hatch) on drums. While in D.C., he played regularly with Jesse James Brown (former bass player for Bo Diddley), and Pete Kanaras (formerly of the Nighthawks). After just one year in D.C., Kurt relocated to the deep South, where he spent three years playing with the Macon Blues All-Stars which included several alumni from Otis Redding's band. Kurt left the south and moved to Chicago to immerse himself in the city's storried blues scene as well as travel nationally and internationally to promote his debut album – True Story. While in Chicago, he landed on the regular rotation at the House of Blues, Shaw's Crabhouse, Pete MIllers, Andy's Jazz Club, Redfish and Smoke Daddy.He also had the good fortune to play with a number of well known blues artists - Barrelhouse Chuck, Dave Specter, Kenny Smith and Jimmy Sutton. This past summer Kurt successfully completed his first European tour as he impressed and entertained audiences throughout Holland and Sweden. A return trip to Europe is being planned for the Summer of 2009 to promote his upcoming release - Get Wrong with Me.