Blues in Britain
…the arrangements are refreshing and inspiring and the vocals and various instruments well-balanced. There is some keen guitar work particularly on the title piece, and the harmonica and mandolin are put to effective use throughout. The choice cuts are Leadbelly’s lesser heard “Stewball”; Patton’s “One of These Days”; Willie Johnson’s “Soul of a Man”; and the mortality check gospel closer, Gary Davis’ “I Will Do My Last Singing”.
- Frank Franklin-


 Living Blues
…performed with great confidence and consummate skill. All three men are well known in their own rights both as performers and teachers, working sympathetically together giving each other plenty of space in which to express their own individual personalities. 

The choice of material is fascinating, including titles from the likes of Charlie Patton, Memphis Slim, Tampa Red and Rev. Gary Davis, with a number that I have not heard recorded elsewhere for some while. I was, in particular, interested to hear Leadbelly’s Stewball where the vocals are led by Miller with some driving and intricate mandolin from Johnson. The harp from Dermody is quite superb throughout this set and he has a tone very much of his own and on Memphis Slim’s   Mother Earth his distinctive break is one of the highlights of this highly recommended set. 

I have enjoyed Miller’s guitar playing since I first heard him back in the late sixties when he recorded for the “legendary” Blue Goose label owned by the late Nick Perls based in New York City. He is a clean and accurate player capturing the feel of many of the early players while adding much of his own personality. On the Son House classic Depot Blues he is particularly tight creating a perfect foil for the heartfelt vocals from Dermody. The dobro from Johnson on Sonny Boy Williams’ Springtime Blues sets him apart from many of his contemporary players while his vocals throughout are natural and impressive. His singing, in particular, on Rev. Gary Davis’s emotional original I Will Do My Last Singing is awesome capturing much of Davis’s intense honesty.

This is not a recreation of historic recording but a very personal and entertaining interpretation of some carefully selected material all performed with integrity and skill. This is a heartfelt outing by three serious and committed musicians performing naturally and without any pretensions and long may it continue!

-Bob Tilling-



Blues-To-Do's
Lyin’, cheatin’, and sneakin’: the blues is rank with falsehoods and double-dealing. But there’s no deception on this disc. What you hear is the genuine article, direct from three titans of Northwest acoustic blues: Orville Johnson, John Miller, and Grant Dermody.

Johnson is well-known for his innovative slide guitar and dobro playing and unbridled singing. Miller is renowned for his clean, complex fingerpicking in a variety of genres and styles, and for his guitar teaching credentials and many instructional tapes and DVDs. Harmonica player Dermody is less well known, but based on the evidence here and on his debut solo album last year, “Crossing That River,” he should be internationally famous.  He has technique and tone to spare, and an easy intimacy with the subtleties of blues music that’ll make you think he started blowing harp about when he learned to walk.

The three bluesmen first played together a few years ago when they were on staff at the Centrum/Port Townsend Blues Workshops and enjoyed it so much that they kept getting together on occasion, though they maintain separate careers. Their first CD together is a romp through twelve acoustic blues classics by Memphis Slim, Charlie Patton, John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, Leadbelly, Tampa Red, Blind Willie Johnson, Son House, Gary Davis, and others.

Like all classics, these tunes are full of the kind of mysterious yet somehow vaguely familiar lyrics and melodies that sound like they were not so much crafted as unearthed in a musty oak trunk of unknown provenance. They sound centuries old—ideal for the grand, old-time whoopin’, wailin’, moanin’, and hollerin’ that Johnson, Miller, and Dermody specialize in. Their arrangements, playing, and singing are superb throughout.

Prime cuts are the old warhorse “Stewball,” with Johnson and Miller’s wildly syncopated mandolin and guitar, Miller’s slap-your-knees funny vocal, and Dermody’s luscious harp solo. “Some of These Days,” associated with Charlie Patton (but based on a pop tune first recorded by Sophie Tucker in 1911), with Dermody’s slick harp and vocal and Johnson’s tasty mandolin. The sly, jazzy title tune, driven by Johnson’s dynamite dobro. (No wonder they call him a King of Mongrel Folk!) Johnson’s clever vocal on “Polly Put the Kettle On,” accompanied by Dermody’s tight, rhythmic harp. A propulsive version of Blind Willie Johnson’s famous “Soul of a Man” that’s pushed into hyperdrive by combined guitar, mando, and harp. Miller’s string-snapping guitar work on “Depot Blues.”  Johnson’s moving vocal and Dermody’s beautiful harp on Gary Davis’s “I Will Do My Last Singing in This World Somewhere.”

In fact, all these songs are keepers. No lie—this is a great acoustic blues CD!

-Mark Hoffman-


Victory Music Review
When three of the finest musicians in the Pacific Northwest go into a room, pull up chairs around a microphone, and let fly, it’s hard not to be prejudicial about the results.  Of course, Deceiving Blues is terrific: must have, automatic, get it today, etc.  What makes it SO good, though, is that local legends Orville Johnson, John Miller, and Grant Dermody have pushed each other into new places and spaces, drawing out sounds and abilities for this record that they’ve not achieved before. 

Johnson, already acclaimed as the King of Mongrel Folk and as such a seemingly endless repository of different old-timey styles, puts on a tour de force, trying a little something extra and astonishing on each tune.  He can go from chirpy highs to guttural lows, and weave and bend every note in between. He’s never doing it just to show off, though: he’s complimenting his own Dobro, and playing against Miller’s guitar and Dermody’s supple harmonica.  The well-known Johnson, however, is not the album’s greatest revelation.

 That would be Dermody.
The harpist had the area’s album of the year a couple back (Crossing That River), on which he displayed a sly, tempered light baritone on the vocal cuts.  This time, his buddies urge him to a menacing growl on “Soul of a Man” and “Depot Blues” that really works. Meanwhile, the musicianship is uniformly fantastic.  Miller says that the group was looking for ways to stretch out, relax, and find something new in a mix of classics and originals, and they’ve succeeded.  The group lays back some on the traditionally brisk “Stewball,” but then pushes the laconic “Polly Put the Kettle On.” This is the sound of genius at work:
THAT’S why this is a must-have.

-Tom Peterson-  


Sing Out
 

Three veteran musicians...come together on this fine recording to trade lead vocals on a set of acoustic blues and gospel songs drawn from such sources as LeadBelly, Memphis Slim, Rev. Gary Davis and several others. Their low key approach to the blues highlights both the lyrical folk poetry at the heart of many of the songs as well as the gracefulness of the melodies. MR 


No Depression & Hearth Music

It's pretty easy to make me fall in love with your country blues. Just cover Blind Willie Johnson. Don't try and mimic his playing (nobody can), but take his songs, which are all beautiful vignettes of country gospel, and play 'em straight. I guarantee I'll love you forever. NW country blues super-group Johnson, Miller & Dermody nail this out the gate on the first track of their new album, We Heard the Voice of a Porkchop. They take on my favorite Blind Willie Johnson song too: the critically underrated "The Rain Don't Fall On Me". Of course, this has special meaning to me as we slide into another rainy Seattle Christmas. But it's also one of his sweeter and least-covered songs. On the original recording, it's a simple plea, asking for trouble to move along elsewhere. His wife, Willie B. Harris, sings the refrain behind him. I've always loved the recordings he made with her, and it's a shame she gets written about so infrequently. Here, Orville Johnson, John Miller, and Grant Dermody deftly cover the song, bringing the kind of weary resignation to rain and trouble that only a life in Seattle can lend us. The whole album is a great romp by three master players through the back alleys of the country blues.

-Devon Leger-

JMD Radio

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