Few blues acts have perfected the tricky maneuver of honoring the storied history of the blues, while at the same time keeping the music up-to-date, as admirably as Delta Groove's The Mannish Boys. It's a balancing act that they've honed over the course of six highly-acclaimed CD releases and countless nights gigging on concert stages around the world. Conceived as an all-star showcase for the cream of the West Coast blues crop, The Mannish Boys have stayed true to that vision. They've continually evolved through the years, seeking out and spotlighting the talents of genuine blues legends in a setting that honors the deep roots of the genre, while also providing them with the support required to excite today's blues audiences.
Their newest release on Delta Groove marks a number of firsts for The Mannish Boys. "Double Dynamite," as the title suggests, serves up a double dose of The Mannish Boys on a two-CD set, allowing them to really stretch out and feature more special guests and sounds than on any of their previous recordings. Especially notable is new featured vocalist Sugaray Rayford, a soulful, gospel-inflected singer, originally from Texas, who has been little known outside of his current home base in Southern California, until now. Also along for the ride this time, and adding variety and depth in the vocal department, are veterans "Icepick" James Harman, Mike Finnigan (who in the '60s played keyboards on Jimi Hendrix's "Electric Ladyland" LP, among many other accomplishments in his long career), and Jackie Payne, plus long-time Mannish Boys' frontman Finis Tasby. The band's regular guitarists Kirk Fletcher and Frank Goldwasser are prominently represented, with Goldwasser taking a turn in front of the vocal mic, as does The Mannish Boys' harp playing honcho, Randy Chortkoff. And as an additional treat, Mud Morganfield, eldest son of the undisputed king of Chicago blues, Muddy Waters, also contributes as a guest vocalist, bringing a South Side Chicago blues unrivalled by any living vocalist. Other guests on this unprecedented release include harmonica aces Rod Piazza, Jason Ricci and Bob Corritore, and guitarists Elvin Bishop, Junior Watson, Nathan James, and Kid Ramos, all backed by the hard-swinging rhythm section of Jimi Bott and Willie J. Campbell, plus an array of other very special musicians.
A virtual blues festival in a single band, all of this variety adds up to a continually surprising, wide-ranging, and most consistently excellent release from The Mannish Boys' career so far.