What a trip: Dick Van Dyke among 32 Blind Raccoon NOLA Blue artists in diverse collection

Dick Van Dyke sings “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” on “Blind Raccoon and NOLA Blue Collection Vol. 4.” Released on Jan. 22, the album features 34 songs from newly and soon-to-be released tracks. Photo from Dick Van Dyke Facebook page.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more diverse, consistently enjoyable collection of new blues songs than this one. In addition to being used to promote the 32 superb artists (and 34 songs) included, “Blind Raccoon and NOLA Blue Collection Vol. 4” was compiled with an admirable cause in mind. Betsie Brown, owner of the publicity and media services company Blind Raccoon, and Sallie Bengtson, president of NOLA Blue Records, will donate all the proceeds from the digital sale of it to MusiCares, which provides much-needed support to self-employed musicians during hard times. The emotional release and healing at the root of blues music — for the performer and the audience — has long now translated into wonderful ideals that permeate the community that supports it. These ladies and others like them deserve as much applause for their efforts, as the terrific music they present here.

For well over two hours, this is blues you can use — to groove to, grin at and get lost in. Many of the songs serve as previews to albums by Blind Raccoon clients planned for release in 2022. The remainder came out last year. All feature promising singers, players, and bands, along with several that should have already become stars. One is downright legendary, and offers a big surprise. The distinguished, 96 year-old stage and screen comedian, actor, singer, and dancer Dick Van Dyke takes on Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” with the same strong and sprightly step in his voice that the excellent band plays in its jazzy melody. His performance is award-worthy. 

Otherwise, the songs run the gamut of blues music, highlighting styles originating from the four corners of America, and beyond. The sounds of New Orleans do percolate under the surface of some like potent java; in most it’s there in faint spirit. Minnesota’s Mark Cameron ignites the set in robust voice with “Sorry,” a rocker full of funky hooks and slick slide guitar. Blind Lemon Pledge, from the San Francisco Bay Area, skips through the swamp with his infectious, acoustic “Black Eyed Suzie,” before Texan Trudy Lynn stomps her way through “If Your Phone Don’t Ring” with the authority she’s gained across decades of experience. Then there’s Memphis-based powerhouse vocalist John Nemeth, leading his Love Light Orchestra through “After All” with the big band romanticism of B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Bland. Why this man’s not a massive success is anyone’s guess.

Jersey native Clarence Spady skips along to some spry soul, before the U.K.’s Wily Bo Walker welcomes you to his own private VoodooVille, and Skylar Rogers grabs hold with a combination of Chicago grit and Led Zep bluster. And if you don’t laugh out loud to Kenny Parker’s Detroit-made, Delta fried “She Might Meet Me,” you need to take your funny bone to the orthopedic surgeon right quick. Go to www.nolablue.bandcamp.com. Download this fine collection of blues music, and lend assistance while dancing the night away.

-Tom Clarke

  • ‘Blind Raccoon NOLA Blue Collection Vol. 4’
  • Various Artists
  • Label: Blind Raccoon / Nola Blue
  • Release: Jan 22, 2022
Both discs from the collection conclude with songs by Trevor B. Power.
Peter Veteska & Blues Train contribute “So Far So Good.”
Supreme voice: Teresa James leads The Rhythm Tramps on “Takes One To Know One.”
John Nemeth
John Nemeth, photographed here in 2015 in Memphis upstairs at the Rum Boogie Cafe, unveils his new 10-piece band led by guitarist Joe Restivo, The Lovelight Orchestra, with the tune “After All.” The band’s debut album “Leave The Light On” will be released on Feb. 18. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 25 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, Los Lobos, and the Allman Brothers Band and its ever-growing family tree. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Kudzoo, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen have raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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