How do you build a blues group around the inherently jolly sound of a washboard?
Not an easy task, but Washboard Chaz—known in town for his ability to sit in with just about any band in any genre—is the man for the job. Doing a lot with very little, Chaz’s acoustic trio—with Andy J. Forest on harmonica and St. Louis Slim on guitar—proves that band chemistry trumps volume every time.
Chaz’s joie de vivre is hard to miss, so his “I Can’t Be Satisfied” isn’t quite as desperate as Muddy Waters’ original. More up his alley is Big Bill Broonzy’s lusty and rollicking “Wrong Woman.” There’s a telling moment on “Falling Down Blues” where he breaks into a warm, spontaneous laugh after the line “Some people say these blues ain’t tough,” and then calls on Slim for a lilting slide solo.
Not that everything is sunny in Chaz’s world: The lyric on “Doing Bad” (reprised from the trio’s last studio album) is lowdown as it gets—the singer gets turned down for a bank loan, loses his job, turns to robbery, and winds up in jail—but the mood is oddly upbeat, suggesting that anyone without all those problems is basically doing fine.
Like any good live set, this one takes a couple left turns. The band goes reggae on Forest’s vocal showpiece, “Pick Yourself Up,” and croons a Western ballad on “Utah Moon” (the one place you hear one of Chaz’s trademarks, the bicycle bell that he uses instead of a cymbal).
For the finale, they go full-tilt gospel on “Preaching Blues,” the perfect kind of song to close a Frenchmen Street set. After all, it’s hard to avoid the tip jar when you’ve just gone to church.