Blues duo's new CD surprises with acoustic perfection
The blues has always been about surprises. Even a grizzled veteran blues aficionado like me was in for them on Bob Bingham's and Gordon Thorne's new disc simply titled "2." These two North Shore performers, who collectively have decades of experi...
The blues has always been about surprises.
Even a grizzled veteran blues aficionado like me was in for them on Bob Bingham's and Gordon Thorne's new disc simply titled "2."
These two North Shore performers, who collectively have decades of experience and thousands of gigs under their belts, have produced a well-rounded acoustic blues disc that combines classic tunes, a few under-recorded chestnuts and a couple of originals. It's a great testament to what two guys with a couple acoustic guitars, talent, good taste and great material can do.
Surprises included Robert Johnson's oft-recorded (everyone from Eric Clapton to Keb' Mo' to Jonny Lang and thousands more) 1930's blues standard, "Ramblin' On My Mind." I thought I had heard every conceivable take of this 12-bar standard, but I was wrong. Gordon Thorne's clanky 12-string gives on ominous tone throughout text about a mistreated man who's gonna pack his kit and move on down the road. The pure resignation in Thorne's voice as he spits out "Mister Gotta Have is wearin' me out!" is worth the CD's price.
The syncopated elegance of Mississippi John Hurt's "Can't Be Satisfied" fits Bingham's vocal style and gives the twin guitars a chance to shine. Hurt's style is deceptively difficult to pull off. Less talented artists can miss all the prance that made his music so special. Bingham plays like he was raised in the Delta, with smooth, dexterous execution.
The incredibly pliable "Mystery Train," which has been in the repertoire of countless groups from every conceivable genre (bluegrass, rockabilly, country rock, electric blues) is given a reading here. Bingham's voice, which sometimes sounds a bit too much like a white-suited enigmatic ragtime parlor guitar player, and Thorne's countrified wail reminded me, to my surprise, of what this tune would sound like if recorded in duet by Leon Redbone and Marty Stuart.
Bob Bingham hails from the Boston area. He and his younger brother, Charlie (Lamont Cranston Band, The Hoopsnakes) moved across the country with a stop in Ann Arbor, Mich., and landed in the Twin Cities. The brothers are simply the best blues guitar playing siblings on the planet, bar none. The Vaughans have nothing on this pair. The authority and power with which they play the blues is singular and totally their own.
New in town, Bingham met the Hayes brothers (Pat and Larry) by chance in Hamel, Minn., and helped form the Lamont Cranston Band in 1969. He's been the guitar player in many electric blues bands over the years, including Luther Allison's band, Live Bait, Aces Straights & Shuffles and the Lynwood Slim Band. He found his niche with the country blues when he moved his family to the North Shore, packed up the Stratocaster and broke out the Martin.
Gordon Thorne has been honing his blues skills at the Gunflint Tavern and other places up the shore for many years. He may have found the perfect partner in Bingham. They seem to read each other's minds and work off each other masterfully.
Bingham & Thorne received a standing ovation after their set at last month's Bayfront Blues Festival. This disc gets the same. Considering the talent and the material, that should be no surprise.
John Ziegler has worked as program and music director at KUMD-FM for 31 years. He reviews music for the News Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org .