CD REVIEW: Lonesome Dan’s raw blues will take you back in time



Ever been walking along, unexpectedly gotten a whiff of some aroma that lights up your olfactory senses, and in a split second transports you back to an earlier time and place?


Lonesome Dan Kase’s new disc “So Glad I’m Livin’ “ is the aural equivalent. It vividly brings you back to roadhouses, jook joints and dance halls of the post-Depression South, where heat was a kerosene barrel and gents in pinstripe suits were hunched over cards or dice in the backroom.


His music’s roots are deep in the traditional blues of that era and the disc makes no attempt to gussy up the raw sounds of that time. That was a day when the music drew on rags, on gospel, on early jazz, and was separated geographically. The Mississippi Delta was king, but Texas had its style. So did Detroit, North Carolina, St. Louis, Florida and, of course, Chicago. This was a colorful time in the music’s lineage when the best artists had flashy nicknames that often included being visually impaired, anorexic or from the wrong side of the tracks (Blind, Slim or Southside.) Lonesome Dan brings the era and the sounds to life.


“So Glad You’re Mine” is an Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup song that he recorded for the Bluebird label in 1946. Kase said he first heard it from Muddy Waters, but both versions come into play here. Kase gives it an amazingly snappy shuffle feel, with some sophisticated harmony that includes ninth chords and nice passing changes embellishing the frenzied melody.

Sometimes things are born of happy musical accidents, as was the case with “I’ll Catch a Break.” It’s a cross between “Funny” Papa Smith’s “Before Long” and Tony Hollins’ “I get a Break.” During a performance one evening, Kase combined them into a medley, without realizing it. The recorded version combines a few additional original verses, nimble licks and translucent slide into an exuberant whole.


The disc is dedicated to the legendary guitarist Robert Lockwood Jr.,who contributed so much to the music’s growth and development. “You’d Be Frantic , Too” was originally by trumpeter “Hot Lips” Page and featured Lockwood’s guitar style. Kase captures Robert Jr.’s exotic, syncopated, jazzy feel with a certain mature subtlety.

In the mid-1930s Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Gary Davis and Bull City Red went to New York City from North Carolina to make their recording debuts. Kase learned “Baby you Gotta Change Your Mind” with its tight rag rhythm from those sessions and adds a tasty twist of his own to it.


There’s something special about a traditionalist such as Lonesome Dan Kase. Part originator, part historian this breed provides a direct kink to the early days of this music that plays an important but unsung role in today’s popular music. It’s paradoxical that something so seminal is looked at by so many as a museum piece. Kase and his ilk should be protected for keeping music like this an active, vital part of our cultural


-John Ziegler, Duluth News Tribune