"Pony Run" CD (FTRCD006) 1999 Catfish Keith's seventh solo album features a dozen deep, red hot blues and roots gems with special guest Radoslav Lorkovic with Catfish on three piano-guitar barrelhouse duets.
"Breaking New Ground for Blues, Catfish Keith is a solo revelation." -The Guardian
PONY RUN CD REVIEWS:
“Pony Run is the seventh release by bottleneck slide virtuoso, singer and songwriter, Catfish Keith. With two W.C. Handy Award nominations in 1992 and 1995 to his credit for "BEST ACOUSTIC BLUES ALBUM," the expectations for the long awaited new recording, Pony Run, could only be considered high. Catfish Keith has consistently delivered high quality music to his fans since the 1984 release of his debut album, Catfish Blues, on Kicking Mule Records; this release is no exception.
Pony Run features twelve songs by Catfish Keith on acoustic, as well as National Delphi and Baritone guitars. The CD also includes three songs with Radoslav Lorkovic accompanying Keith on piano; providing an excellent barrelhouse feel to "I Just Can't Help It," "Funky Butt" and "Sweet Potatoes."
Opening with "I Just Can't Help It," the CD gets right down to it with Keith's amazing guitar and a nice piano solo by Lorkovic. The best guitar on the CD is reserved for the two instrumentals, "Butt Dance" and the mournful, howling finale, "Doggone My Bad Luck Soul." The finale is an especially powerful performance by Catfish Keith and was my favorite song on the CD. Other highlights on Pony Run include, "Champagne Charlie," a song reminiscent of the style heard from Leon Redbone; "Wing and a Prayer," which includes some great guitar to accompany Keith's distinctive vocals; "Catfish Blues," a real foot-stomping tune that includes some of the best vocals on the record; and the title track, "Pony Run."
If you like acoustic blues and the delta style offered by Catfish Keith, you will definitely enjoy Pony Run; I ‘garontee’ it!” - Dave "Doc" Piltz, "Blues On Stage" - mnblues.com
“Catfish Keith continues to impress with his assimilation of acoustic blues stylings on his sixth Fish Tail album. This time out, Keith offers adaptations (not slavish imitations) of songs from Walter Davis, Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie and Tommy Johnson, and Joseph Spence; traditional fare like Buffalo Gals and (appropriately) Catfish Blues; plus his own title track. Pianist Radoslav Lorkovic joins in on a couple of songs; also included are a pair of slide guitar instrumentals (played on a National Baritone Tricone Guitar).” -Living Blues (USA), Jan/Feb 2000
“ACOUSTIC BLUESMAN Catfish Keith has made a string of fine albums and has paid regular visits to these shores without attracting the attention he deserves. The Iowan singer and guitarist - born Keith Kozacik - has his sixth CD on Fish Tail Records, Pony Run out. It’s his best yet, a compelling mixture of originals such as the Bo Diddley-inspired Butt Dance and the relaxed title track, together with fresh takes on blues standards such as Tommy Johnson’s Canned Heat and Walter Davis’s I Just Can’t Help It. But it is Keith’s artistry on acoustic and steel-bodied guitars that stands out.” -John Clarke, The Times (UK), Jan 29, 2000
"MORE than the sum of his widely varied influences (from Lonnie Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson to Buddy Bolden), Catfish Keith merges the traditional with the contemporary -- and loses nothing in the process. It's a tricky line to walk. Keith, with 20 years as a solo pro and a half-dozen albums behind him, uses a largely original playing style - he picks, slaps, strums (sometimes all in the same passage) and plays a stone-solid bottleneck slide. The intimate production here highlights his playing and compliments his clean, ebullient picking.
The songs on Pony Run are ostensibly Delta-based, but Keith and pianist Radoslav Lorkovic (somebody order this guy a blues name!) make the music their own. Most of the covers are from obscure sources, like midcentury St. Louis pianist Walter Davis, and from influences like Jefferson and Johnson. Keith also toughens up the traditional Buffalo Gals with his strong vibrato, matter-of-fact vocals and fresh lyrics.
The Davis tune, I Just Can't Help It, is a jaunty, rolling number fleshed out by Lorkovic's steady boogie-woogie rumble. The title cut features a hypnotic, appeggiated riff that brings to mind Jessie Mae Hemphill. Champagne Charlie is a traditional that's been played by Blind Blake and Leon Redbone, and it's carried to new places here by Keith's attitude and aggressive fingerpicking.
It's suprising that Keith, a bottleneck slide man, breaks it out on only two songs here: the Piedmont-ish Butt Dance and the closer Doggone My Bad Luck Soul. Both are deep, dark cuts that transport you to another place. Johnson's Sweet Potatoes spotlights Keith's gruff vocals (and the occasional smooth falsetto) and melodic string work. Lorkovic's sympathetic piano work adds some good gravy.
The solo and duo setting means that there isn't alot of forward motion to these songs, so Pony Run won't perk up your party. It's designed more for solo or duo listening. That said, this is an exhilarating album by one of our best pickers - and it's fun to wonder: Is Keith an all-time great to be?" -Jeff Calvin, Blues Revue (USA), April, 2000
“This beautifully packaged disc, with a stunning cover painting by respected artist David Oxtoby, is vintage Catfish, which no doubt will please his many followers. I have watched his career for many years now and there are two aspects, in particular that I have always enjoyed and admired. His discs (and concerts) are always consistent in quality, and he chooses his titles with great care, often giving us some very unusual and original choices.
This latest disc is no exception with the added bonus of the piano player Radoslav Lorkovic on three titles. The opening title I Just Can’t Help It, a Walter Davis original, has them swinging along at a classy ferocious pace, and with Lonnie Johnson’s Sweet Potatoes they are at a slower, more mellow tempo. I certainly hope that Catfish will record more with Lorkovic as they certainly work sympathetically together. There are two titles where Catfish performs on his new baritone polychrome tricone National guitar - and what a wonderful sound it is, absolutely suiting his style and technique. The original instrumental, Butt Dance is one of the great moments of this first class twelve title set, and I look forward to seeing Catfish perform with this unique guitar.
All of his usual guitar technique trademarks are here, alongside his distinctive and highly charged vocals. There are certainly no dull moments on this foot-tapping collection. His interpretation of the Tommy Johnson classic, Canned Heat is one of the most original that I have ever heard and with Joseph Spence’s Wing and a Prayer he truly captures much of the original. This is a quality production, from a committed and talented acoustic performer, which I very highly recommend.” -Bob Tilling, Blueprint (UK), Jan. 2000
“Catfish Keith is an all around nice guy who has carved out a niche for himself on the blues circuit with constant touring and dynamic performances, but more importantly, he has his own distinctive style. You can readily identify a Catfish performance by the driving guitar, accomplished playing and those strong, good humoured and individual vocals - all of which are present on Pony Run, Keith’s sixth (of seven) on his own Fish Tail Records.
His attention to detail - not only in identifying the originators of his borrowings, but also in giving the low-down on his instruments - tends to keep blues purists and guitar groupies alike happy, and his own originals stay fully within the tradition, unlike some others who tend to wander into earnest singer/songwriter territory as soon as they get a pen in hand.
But then Catfish has been doing this stuff long before many others, and there are few among the white blues revivalists that can tackle the deep Mississippi blues with anything like Catfish’s attack and authentic approach. Pony Run is a fine showcase for his strengths. This time around, he has added pianist Radoslav Lorkovic to help out on a few tracks, and if you want to know how well they work together, just take a listen to the storming boogie opener (a Walter Davis number) or Funky Butt with it’s New Orleans parlour cum Delta sound on which Catfish sounds surprisingly mean and nasty!
Elsewhere, our man conjures up the sombre mood of Blind Willie Johnson’s Dark Was the Night on the set’s closing number, turns Buffalo Gals into a raucous blues and combines the weirdness of Joseph Spence with some Delta slide on Wing & a Prayer. A couple of country dance numbers showcase the man’s mellower side, and his version of Tommy Johnson’s Canned Heat is stunning. Catfish has a way of altering songs to suit his style but as on this Johnson number, or when drawing on Blind Lemon and Isiah Nettles for So Cold in China or Blind Blake for Champaigne Charlie (a song my grandfather used to sing and he sure didn’t learn it from Blake’s record!), he also subtly slips in a few of the original licks just to let you know that he knows what he’s doing and where he’s got it from. In other words, another excellent album from Mr. C. Keith.”
-Norman Darwen, Blues & Rhythm (UK), Millenium Edition
“This is Catfish Keith’s sixth album (ed: 7th), and is a minor departure in that three of the twelve tracks by the master of acoustic blues is joined by piano player Radoslav Lorkovic for duets in a style somewhere between barrelhouse, Professor Longhair and Scott Joplin, which in a beautifully lyrical and reponsive way perfectly compliments Catfish’s spirited and nifty guitar work.
The rest of the album is pure unadulterated Catfish, on great form - rootsy deep blues with a high footstomp factor (betcha can’t keep still!), delivered with a fetching sparky directness and with a crisp recording of needle-sharp precision that to it’s credit in no way diminishes or sterilises the impact of the music-making. Even if there’s nothing quite as stunning as Eagle Bird (on Twist It, Babe!) this time around (but what a hard act to follow!), there’s still plenty to get excited about in this new collection, from the wonderfully wicked version of Champaigne Charlie to the ramblin’ title track (a Catfish original, but so authentic in feel that you’d reckon you’d always known it!).
There’s another of Catfish’s perfectly realised tributes to idiosyncratic Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence - Wing And A Prayer - full of those trademark quirky turns of phrase and showcasing “the little wood guitar with the big sound”. The two cuts featuring Catfish’s new National Baritone Tricone guitar come over particularly well - the incredible depth and “body” of this guitar’s sound have to be heard to be believed. So yet again, Catfish Keith has provded proof that keeping things basic and remaining true to his roots pays enormous dividends. If you like your blues jumpin’ and hot, “alligator wearin’ polarbearskin pajamas, momma”, then you’ll find Catfish Keith a kindred spirit.”
-David Kidman, Rock ‘n’ Reel (UK), Jan. 2000
"Some popular musical styles, reggae, bluegrass, and blues chief among them, seem to have fossilized at a point in their development, their classical eras, their salad days, such that it is rare to find fidelity to roots leavened by innovation. Iowa's gift to acoustic blues, Catfish Keith, continues to fill this gap on Pony Run, his experimental audacity on a par with Hoosegow's strange, wonderful 1996 release "Mighty,", yet more firmly grounded in tradition. The range of his mostly finger-picked guitar work is astounding, each fret buzz impressed into expressive service, and his growling vocal is surprisingly effective given its lack of resonance, mostly because it so well matches his uninhibited guitar style in its melodic peregrinations and falsetto flights.
His version of Funky Butt is well compared with that of Bill Morrissey on his 1999 recording "Songs of Mississippi John Hurt," Keith's guitar work livelier and rawer, the explosive pops of his vocal more knowingly
suggestive than Morrissey's smooth, laid back performance. The following original instrumental, Butt Dance, trots out some fine slide work laid atop slapping bass picking, and emphasizes Keith's impeccable if unpredictable sense of timing, true to country blues roots, but always fresh and surprising.
Keith surprises with his take on Buffalo Gals, his bouncy finger-picked steel-backed guitar a virtual calliope, his half-spit vocal reinvigorating this standard; it could be the first time you've ever heard it, or at least all the lyrics, especially the Catfish specials about alligators and their polar bear pajamas. Keith's energetically primitive guitar in the Caribbean style of Joseph Spence is also a surprise on an inspirational song from the Great War, Wing and a Prayer.
You can have your blues tradition, and be surprised too, with Catfish Keith." -Jim Foley, Crossroads (USA)