Fetch It! - Steve Cheseborough
Written by Andrew MullinsFetch It! - Steve Cheseborough
Portland-based musician and author Steve Cheseborough has put together a strong set of country blues for his latest CD, Fetch It!, which was released in January. The author of the guidebook Blues Traveling: the Holy Sites of Delta Blues, Cheseborough is a part-time blues historian, but never comes across sounding like one on this CD. He takes a laid back approach to the music that is very appealing - it's always a pleasure for the listener when the performer sounds so relaxed and sure of their material. Just sit back and enjoy.
The record opens with "Hear Me Talking to You", an arrangement of a Ma Rainey song with a beautiful melody that provides the title for the CD in its lyric, "you got to fetch it with you when you come." The pace sets the tone for much of the rest of the disc. Cheseborough adapts the song - originally played by a jug band - for solo guitar in Vestapol tuning to great success. His arranging talents are in evidence throughout the record, but particularly on Little Brother Montgomery's "Vicksburg Blues", a slow blues that transfers surprisingly effectively from piano to guitar, and the wonderful Georgia Tom Dorsey song "Been Mistreated", which sounds a little like it's gone through a Bo Carter machine.
Cheseborough is in fact an expert on Carter, and so it's only fitting that he tackles several of his tunes for the CD, including the classic "Arrangement for Me Blues", and the guitar workout "Who's Been Here" - slightly toned down here from the original acrobatic version, but still rendered with style and Bo-itude. But the most enjoyable take on Carter here is surely the less common "Who Broke the Latch?", a raggy medicine show or vaudeville-style blues that is hard to resist.
If you've seen Cheseborough perform, you may have seen him put away the guitar and convincingly lay down a tune with simple harmonica, percussion and vocal. This time round it's Polly Wolly Doodle, perfectly executed comedy featuring melodic harp playing, hambone and vocal responses in the bass register. His harp playing in general should not go unmentioned: always understated, he resists wailing harmonica stylings, and has more in common with Noah Lewis or Will Shade.
Other tracks on the record include a funky, John Lee Hooker-ish take on Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips", Blind Lemon Jefferson's "One Dime Blues", Tampa Red's "Love With a Feeling", and even a nice cover of a Dean Martin tune, "Little Ole Wine Drinker Me" - complete with yodel. The CD also features percussion on every track - Stacy Adams shoes on an old box lid - though I think a few tracks should probably have stood shoeless on their own. Geeshie Wiley's "Last Kind Words" in particular is one where I could have done without the percussive tapping.
Cheseborough's vocals are strong throughout. He picks great singing songs, not just guitar parts, and he's got his own style (though an occasional tendency to exaggerate vowel sounds may alarm some listeners at first). With a playlist that avoids blues clichés and Cheseborough's easy-going style, Fetch It! is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining CD. Featuring cover art by 15-year-old cartoonist Christopher Livingstone.
Available at CD Baby