(2001 BWS Productions)
Turn Back the Hands of Time (J. Daniels / B. Thompson)
Natural Ball (Albert King)
All Your Love (S. Maghett)
Johnny B. Goode / Knock on Wood (Chuck Berry / Eddie Floyd)
Dem Blues Will Never Die (C. Montgomery / C. Kimble)
She’s Fine (A.C. Reed)
I Want To Know (S. DeSanto)
Don’t You Lie To Me (Albert King)
As The Years Go Passing By (Deadric Malone)
Breaking Up Sombody’s Home (Albert King)
Unchain My Heart (A. Jones / F. James)
I-94 (Casey Jones)
Honey Hush (Albert Collins)
She’s Mine (Doyal Brem BMI)
MUSICIANS & CREDITS:
Big Walter Smith (lead vocals)
Scott Graves (lead guitar, back up vocals, music direction)
Tom McShane (drums)
Paul Wigen (keyboards, back up vocals)
Joe Sherohman (bass)
Tom Tange (trumpet)
Ted “T-Bone” Thomas (trombone)
Jim Kogl (tenor saxophone)
Shirley Smith (executive producer)
Christopher Blood (engineering)
Greb Harder, Mike Nichols & Big Walter Smith (producer)
Tom Tange & The High Stepping Horn Section (horn arrangemenets)
Recorded and mixed at A440 Studios, Mpls., MN. Art / Design by Shirley Smith, Steve Adams–Adams Arts. Management by BWS Productions, Shirley Smith. Photography Shirley Smith. Mastering at Advance Duplication, Plymouth, MN.
One night last week, I was washing my car out on the street while listening to this CD. I live in the ‘hood of St. Paul, Minnesota. That means neighborhood for all of you that are uninitiated in urban lingo. Not a “residential district”…..the ‘hood. All around me were young street riders with their bass speakers blaring hip-hop, rap and the like. So, being the conscientious blues fanatic that I am, I turned the volume up and let the Groove Merchants blast right back at ‘em. Slowly, I looked up from around the steering wheel I was cleaning. I wanted to see what effect the blues was having on the young street turks out there. The 4th tune, “Johnny B. Good” had just segued into “Knock on Wood” and that’s when I saw it. Heads started bopping, shoulders began to rock, people moved closer to where my Honda was parked. So, being the thoughtful neighbor that I was, I turned the volume up some more, then moved the CD to cut #3, Magic Sam’s “All My Love”. When Scott Graves’ guitar lead-in resolved into Walter Smith’s vocal, a couple of the smaller children moved even closer to the car. No one said anything, but then they didn’t have to. “She’s Fine” sealed the deal. I had their attention. The blues disc jockey in me was beaming. The blues got underneath all that commercial based producer-born synthetic music those young people were listening to. The Groove Merchants reminded those kids that music is not a fashion accessory. It’s for movin’ to, it’s for groovin’ to.
This 2001 release by Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants is the best reflection of their live show thus far. 2 previous releases, “Brother to the Blues” and “Midnight Express” still seem to represent the Groove Merchants in flux. Between those CD’s and this one, the band members have changed, and Walter has changed too. A veteran of the blues for more than 48 years, Walter Smith has seen aspects of the business that most of us only read about. His love and respect for Albert Collins and Albert King are matched only by his personal friendship with venerable gentlemen like these and others, such as Son Seals, Bobby Rush, and Lonnie Brooks. Smith, a natural singer by trade, has lived a multifaceted life, working as a car detailer and as the manager for Albert Collins and the Ice Breakers. Walter’s life story includes transitions, family losses, and business betrayal. A true soul survivor, Mr. Smith’s life memories would make fine reading. But for now, we have to settle for the recordings he releases, though I for one, am not satisfied with just that.
This ensemble of musicians are the strongest Groove Merchant evolution yet. The horn section, trombone Ted Thomas, saxophone Jim Kogl and trumpet Tom Tange are the standout features of this band. They’re tight, tone-ful and interesting to watch. Drummer Tom McShane, keyboardist Paul Wigen and Scott Graves keep the bottom full and progressive, but the success of the beat belongs to bass player Joe Sherohmen. A veteran of the Minneapolis blues scene and ex-member of the Lamont Cranston Band, Sherohmen seems ready to burst out of the CD player. But ,that’s why Big Walter and his G-Men are blues ambassadors of the groove all over Minnesota, on blues cruises, private events and all parts musical.
With this recording, “Groovin’”, Walter has finally captured the sound he’s been looking for, blues-soul ala Lowell Fulson, a little Otis Redding on the side, served with a dash of his mentors, Albert Collins and King. All his love went into it and as the years go passing by, you’ll be glad to have this release added to your blues collection. The Groove Merchants get hotter and tighter with each creative project. Walter’s happy, his wife and band manager Shirley’s happy and the band is happy. What they’re sharing with you here, is their best and that was good enough to bring some hip-hop kids’ attention back to the blues. You’ll be hearing this CD on the air at KFAI Radio in Mpls, Mn and you’ll be seeing this band’s name when they come to your town. I hope you’re smart enough to check them out!
KFAI Radio 90.3FM & 106.7FM
Mpls, Minnesota 55454
Contact Shirley B. at BWS Productions MN to own/purchase this CD
View all of Big Walter Smith & The Groove Merchants Band CDs here