november 2009

Dave Riley & Bob Corritore Lucky To Be LivingLUCKY TO BE LIVING
Dave Riley & Bob Corritore
Blue Witch Records

When Dave Riley retooled the lyrics of Frank Frost’s “Jelly Roll King” only Sam Carr among three of the four friends he mentions in the song were still with us, but on September 29 Carr passed away from congestive heart failure in Clarksdale, MS. So now this easygoing Mississippi shuffle becomes a wonderful tribute to Carr, his wife Doris Carr, John Weston and Frost, with Riley growling the lyrics in a manner that would no doubt meet the approval of his departed pals as would the whole of his second teaming with the master harp man, Bob Corritore, Lucky To Be Living. They’re no more lucky to be living, though,  than we are to be hearing blues done with such honest-to-God authority and love, and with smarts and heart to burn. The spirits of Frost and Carr loom over the proceedings even after Riley has stopped singing their praises. Frost’s “Ride With Your Daddy,” following “Jelly Roll King,” is centered on Riley’s lowdown vocal and Corritore’s rich swoops and moans, while drummer Eddie Kobek pushes the enterprise ahead with his delectable homage to Carr’s Mississippi shuffle style drumming. You might even say the ghost of Little Walter has joined the fray, too, because “Ride With Your Daddy” bears some melodic similarities to “My Babe,” and on Riley’s “On My Way” Corritore seems to lift a melody line from that same Little Walter classic. Heck, Riley’s muscular, wry vocal even sounds like Little Walter circa “Dead Presidents.” But let’s not get carried away with similarities here or there, because Lucky To Be Living is neither homage nor tribute but a for-real trip into some powerhouse blues from the Mississippi-Chicago axis by two fellows who are keeping the faith in a way that will do your soul good to hear. Maybe you’ve hit a bad patch in your love life. An immersion in Riley’s “Let’s Get Together,” with its heartfelt appeal for reconciliation, might give you some rhetorical devices with which to appeal for a second chance, assuming you can extricate yourself from the song’s infectious groove long enough to make your case, but do linger to appreciate both Corritore’s discursive wailing and especially Henry Gray’s rollicking piano. Like Frank Frost and Sam Carr, John Weston gets more than a nod in the first track too. His dark, piercing treatise, “Sharecropper Blues,” is blessed with a stark vocal-guitar-harmonica treatment designed to be an aural evocation of title subject’s dead-end prospects. Riley sings it from some haunted place in his soul that is absolutely chilling, and Corritore enhances the abiding but unspoken malevolence in the singer’s heart with ominous, soul-searing wails weaving a desolate tapestry in conversation with Riley’s distorted riffing. And yet, true to the Frank Frost title tune, the energy throughout is life affirming. Riley and Corritore are not only grateful to be alive, they’re grateful to be alive and playing the blues. Every note suggests as much, and for a listener, such commitment to a cause makes their music a welcome guest any time it comes around. This is some mighty fine blues of the first order. —David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, 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