Pete Feenstra chatted to Popa Chubby for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio in December 2016 and played tracks from ‘The Catfish’
earMUSIC [Release date 07.1o.16]
And so to Popa Chubby’s 26th album – far more if you include his French issues – but who’s counting?
The self-proclaimed ‘King Of The New York City Blues’ has always been a prodigious recording artist, who has never been hampered by claustrophobic genres.
He regards himself as ‘an accessible artist’ and if ‘The Catfish’ succeeds in crossing over his music to a wider audience then he’s doing us all a favour
His urban rock-blues is refracted through a street schooled, punk like prism and ‘The Catfish’ is enriched by the broad based diversity that has always marked him out as unique.
Popa Chubby is a flag bearer for the independent blues musician. He’s unafraid to explore the outer fringes of the expected, be it rockabilly, country or hip-hop. On ‘The Catfish’ he stretches his oeuvre to incorporate rock, blues, reggae/pop, funk and even jazz, as well as three instrumentals of which ‘Blues For Charlie’ is a highlight.
With Chubby, it’s all about an essential balance between feel and self belief. This is evidenced by the spikiness of his vocal attack, the intensity of his licks and the passion of his delivery.
Then there’s his straight down-the-line lyrics, best exemplified by the lilting funk and Stonesy feel of the title track which cleverly frames the album as a whole. Everything comes together on this penultimate track, while ‘C’Mon In My Kitchen’, acts as a bluesy bookend, to persuade us that he’s a bluesman at heart.
But he’s not just a rock blues artist who throws everything in the can. Dig a little deeper and scratch the surface of any Chubby album, and the chances are you’ll always find gold.
He opens with the exhilarating ‘Going Downtown’, full of a rhythmic funk and call and response bv’s that leads us to an unlikely instrumental retread of The Everly Brothers’ ‘Bye Bye Love’. He dives headlong into to the evocatively titled, riff driven ‘Cry ‘Til It’s A Dull Ache’ and he rocks things out on ‘Dirty Diesel’.
He even indirectly rails at against both blues critics and dinosaur rockers by pointing to Lemmy as an inspiration on ‘Motorhead Saved My Life’, and saves his best for the heartfelt instrumental ‘Blues For Charlie’. Dedicated to the French people in general and his enduring French fans in particular, his guitar playing is the cry of humanity.
Chubby will always be an outsider, the contrarian street fighter with plenty to say through heartfelt narratives that span the real, the imagined and always the present!
Ultimately it’s music grounded in the big apple, as evidenced by the adventurous plunge into the brush stroked, cool jazz instrumental of ‘Wes Is More’, and the muted trumpet and mixed back vocal of ‘Slow Down Sugar’, which is in truth is closer to Motown.
His real triumph is the way both the above tracks fit into an adventurously sequenced album. The musical diversions are joined together in this instance by jazzy sketches, and elsewhere by a cutting edge guitar licks, his trademark rough-edged vocal or simply his joy de vivre.
Popa Chubby may cast himself in the alpha figure of ‘The Catfish’, but he occupies a stretch of the river that always runs deep. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
UK Tour Dates (January 2017)
18 London, 100 Club
20 Milton Keynes, The Stables
22 Skegness, Rock and Blues Festival
23 Sutton, Boom Boom Club (with Eric Sardinas)
24 Chislehurst, Beaverwood Club
27 Stirling, The Tolbooth
28 Southport, Arts Centre
29 Somerset, Giants of Rock Festival
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