may 2008

Tomcat Courtney
Blue Witch Records

In his national debut as a recording artist, 78-year-old Texas bluesman (transplanted to San Diego 35 years ago) Tomcat Courtney is focused on the basics of life: in the slow grind of “Cook My Breakfast,” he demands only that his woman do exactly as the title suggests, but leaves it for the listener to decide whether grits is groceries or if he has something else in mind when he growls, “Turn my damper down, baby/Don’t you burn my coffee pot.” As he does on six other of the dozen tracks here, Bob Corritore sweetens the suggestiveness with some sensuous, shimmering harmonica musings. Fashioning a dark-tinged boogie on the top strings of his electric guitar, Tomcat opens “Shake It Up Baby” by declaring, “Sugar’s sugar/salt is salt/if you can’t shake it up, baby/it’s not my fault,” then keeps the boogie rumbling as he runs through a checklist of fundamental necessities, such as whiskey and gin, before concluding, “you ain’t my friend/if you can’t shake yo’ stuff.” Which is not to suggest a surfeit of depth in Tomcat’s oeuvre. The spare, dark “Downsville Blues” is a haunting reminiscence of a trip back home that finds people and places unrecognizable from what he once knew, a feeling of displacement Courtney heightens with a stark, serpentine guitar solo complementing the restrained emotion in his sorrowful vocal. And the personal toll of Hurricane Katrina is measured in the anguished tale of a homeless man who lived to bear witness to the tragedy in “Disaster Blues,” a song in which the lyrics say enough on their own but are lent added punch by Tomcat’s angry, distorted guitar and Corritore’s fierce harmonica protestations. Blending Delta, Chicago and Texas guitar stylings with the laconic, undaunted voice of experience, Tomcat Courtney makes an impression, and then makes it stick. Downsville Blues wears well.—David McGee


Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024