Warm Blues Workmanship

Hot Show (Wild Dog Blues/Ichiban)
Little Mike And the Tornadoes

By Jeff Kallman

New York blues harpist Mike Markowitz, a.k.a. Little Mike, says on the note to this disc, "it is undoctored, pure blues in a 1960s fashion." Well, not exactly - they sure as hell didn't mike drums this heavily, not even on the classic drum~emphasized deep soul hits - but Little Mike and the Tornadoes here seem very well influenced by the blues of that era, at least before the Brit~rockers and the psychedelics got hold of it and turned it (largely) into applesauce. And they play it well, without pushing it too hard or going too much over the top, The rhythm section (bassist joe Fontenot, drummer Cameron Robb) drives the band without shoving the pedal through the metal; guitarist Troy Chandler is a model of tasteful restraint who knows when to knock off the showboating and dig into the feel- ing; and Little Mike himself is a fine singer and fluid harmonica blower (on the sound of it, he's an equal disciple of James Cotton, Paul Butterfield, and Shakey Horton) who isn't afraid of a well-sustained melodic line. Considering his band's discipline, you can well understand that.

As a songwriter, he has a workman's knack for structure even if he's somewhat limp as a lyricist (though you have to love the line which kicks off "I Found Out": "I found out I'm your husband but I ain't your man"). He and his band can swing, rock, and walk the blues with authority, occasional cliches notwithstanding, but finding your voice and wondering what to say with it is another matter altogether. If Little Mike and the Tornadoes can find something truly deep to say with the sure voice they've found together, they have a remarkable future yet to-come. As it is, though, Hot Shot is still a very vigorous and likeable album.