Heard Lately #6: Bob Corritore & Friends — Do the Hip-Shake Baby! review

Haiku of contrition:

Yummy blues burger. 
Corritore does blues right. 
Nothing too fancy.

Artist: Bob Corritore & Friends 
Album: Do the Hip-Shake Baby! 
Release date: May 3, 2019

The deal. Blues rock is a like a hamburger. It shouldn’t bee too clever, too fancy, or overdone. The goal of both should be to spotlight what’s inside, whether it’s pickles, beef, or songs. Which is why I love Bob Corritore. He’s a master of blues simplicity, covering it in a cool, smart way. Corritore isn’t pouring his heart out, or looking to unearth an emotional truth. Instead, he’s just creating fun-but-honest music.

Do the Hip-Shake Baby is a compilation of songs recorded between 2016 and 2018, with a rotating cast of singers and backing musicians. It follows the same pattern of last year’s Don’t Let the Devil Drive, which I loved. What’s great about both albums is that Corritore is really just a facilitator. His harmonica appears on every track, and he’s fantastic. He’s got a huge tone and a wonderful sense of song. But he’s not the lead singer. While his harmonica work is prominent, it’s often not even the focal point of the track. He’s the glue that keeps every song, and the album, together, though. The cohesiveness is especially since the tracks were recorded over two years.. But the album feels like a single live show.

At the same time, with different singers on every song (eight singers across 13 tracks), the album has the feel of a mix tape. There’s a common thread of authentic blues and just about all of the tracks have a certain element of dance. “The Twist” here is much slower than Chubby Checker’s iconic version, but it still swings and sways, getting the titular hips titularly shaking. “I’m Going to Keep What I’ve Got,” a Slim Harpo tune, holds onto Harpo’s sick riff, which sounds, impossibly, almost like a string section. Mighty Joe Milsap’s vocals sound larger than life and Corritore’s harmonica weaves through the song, sewing everything together. But the groove is the real star.

Straight talk. Corritore isn’t breaking any new ground here, which is fine. The blues is limited, which is what makes it a perfect art form. If you push it too far, it becomes something else, like metal or rock. Corritore doesn’t push. He just makes sure everything is as it should be. He’s like a classic portrait artist capturing a subject with the precision of a photograph. Corritore similarly channels the blues and gets its unmodified essence down on tape.

The confession. I just missed this. I probably could have pushed to see if anyone was interested but I’ve been a little busy with a non-music article which sort of put me in a different head space. But I also enjoyed the album so much, I sort of wanted to save it for Heard Lately.

Closing arguments. The reality is, except for the song selection, this isn’t all that different from Don’t Let the Devil Drive (both even feature many of the same singers and musicians). But that was an amazing album, as is this one. It’s more of the same, but the same here is so much better than so much of what’s released each year. I never heard of Corritore before last year. I’ve come to learn he’s a Phoenix blues legend. He has a national profile but I’m not sure why he’s not a more familiar name. I think the big issue is that he blends in too well. He’s not showing off and he’s not making the songs about himself. It makes for great albums but less great publicity. I’m glad he’s chosen to prioritize the former.

The pile

(another digital download)

Follow Heard Lately on Instagram and Twitter

So much amazing music comes out all of the time. I review what I can as quickly as I can, working my physical and digital piles as efficiently as possible, but things fall between the cracks. Rather than giving up on things that are a little past their prime, contemporary-review-standards-wise, I’m going back for the overflow that deserves to be heard — even if it’s a little late.