2019 – Third Street Cigar RecordsBy Phillip Smith; June 29, 2019
Third Street Cigar Records has recently released a terrific twenty-track CD compiling the best of Ohio bluesman Marshall “Big Jack” Reynolds. This deluxe package also includes a feature-length documentary on DVD containing eighty minutes of rare footage, and interviews which has gone unseen since the late Eighties. Although this was my first exposure to Big Jack Reynolds, I found the documentary to be very engrossing.
Reynolds’ earlier recordings were made during the Sixties in Detroit on the Fortune and MAH labels. After moving on to Toledo around 1970, Reynolds set up his home-base and continued performing for another twenty years, recording his last songs in 1990, three years before he passed away. According to Third Street president John Henry, “Big Jack wasn’t nationally famous, but he was our guy and now we get to bring him to the world… Every local player wanted to perform with Jack. He was a ‘real-deal’ bluesman from somewhere down south, though it was never clear where”. With Reynolds on vocals and harmonica, the majority of the cuts on this fascinating compilation feature Larry Gold on guitar, Johnny “Hifi” Newmark on bass, Slim Tim Gahagan on drums, and Chad Smith on piano.
The album opens with a sweet previously unreleased cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do”. Reynolds also lays down a very nice cover of Slim Harpo’s “Scratch My Back” as well. I love Gold’s ripping guitar performance on “You Better Leave That Woman Alone”. Coupled with a cracker-jack rhythm section and Reynold’s slightly raspy vocals, this original sounds great. “Mean Old People” is about as real as it gets. Here we get to hear Big Jack alone with his guitar. It is unadulterated raw blues at its purist.
The infectious and inescapable surf beat on his 1962 single “Made It Up in Your Mind” is a wonderful backdrop for Big Jack and his harp. It’s dripping with cool. My favorite, an original called “Hot Potato” has a stellar groove. Big Jack breaks out his guitar on this jamming instrumental which concludes with him exclaiming “That’s a good way to get to heaven!”. This gravitative track is such a great listen.
This is one great retrospective collection which I will enjoy for a long time.
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