Smoky Greenwell, “Blues and the Power of Peace” (Greenwell Records)

smokey-greenSmoky Greenwell was on his way to a yoga retreat in Tennessee when he visited longtime buddy Johnny Neel, producer of his first five albums, in Nashville. Greenwell, of course, unveiled some new songs and before long, a blistering recording session ignited. Neel’s killer keyboard rides, and a crack-caliber studio band, matched up well with Greenwell’s heated harmonica. 

Two versions of “Common Ground” bookend the proceedings with the longer 8:39 rendering feeling more natural than the shorter radio edit. Along the way, a few political messages are imparted, such as the rock ’n’ roll twisty, “Get Out and Vote,” and a call for activism on the dirgy, doomy, “Slow Moving Coup.” Blues lovers will likely appreciate “Low Blow for the Blues,” which honors fallen harmonica heroes Paul Butterfield, James Cotton, and Norton Buffalo.

It’s all pretty honest, revealing where Greenwell’s spirit is these days. There’s an endorsement for mediation on the slippery “The Way Out Is In.” “Power of Peace” finds him in a different light, attempting the crooner role over a gentle arrangement of harmonica and keyboard. The last part of the song is practically pop and is quite relaxing as the background vocals sing a long chorus of ahs, a common sound of meditation.

The remaining four tracks were recorded in New Orleans and are on par with Greenwell’s fun-filled predecessor South Louisiana Blues. Instrumentally, both the Nashville and New Orleans tracks are often hot, meaning no matter how you write the equation, the common denominator will always be Greenwell.

  • Ghost of Chico Salmon

    Michael Bloomfield was a master of the blues guitar. He did not play harmonica. Perhaps the author meant to write “Paul Butterfield,” with whom Bloomfield played early in his professional career.