CD Review – Midnight Shift “Rhythm Rockin’ Boogie”
For a long time now, Pennsylvania has been home-growing fine blues bands like Bad Influence and the electrifying Del Ray Blues. Now comes Midnight Shift, a rocking, versatile group of thinking bluesmen led by a fine songwriter and blues harpist as well as an excellent lead guitarist and singer.
Rhythm Rockin’ Boogie is the band’s second outing, and Mike Mettalia, alternating lead vocals and Butterfield-grade harp, is the songwriting heart of this album, penning all but six of 18 tracks. Likewise, Mike McMillan on guitar and vocals offers up stylistic spice in at least seven different styles. Paul Pluta on bass and backup vocals, and Tim Smith doing percussion, offer lively, flexible rhythmic support throughout.
In addition to superb blues harpist Steve Guyger, other album guests include Tommy Conwell and Christopher Dean sharing duties on guitar, with Chicago Carl Snyder and Dan McKinney on keyboards, and Phil Pilorz on slide guitar.
We’ve got an hour and 21 minutes to sample this band’s ample musical wares as it takes us through some very American but highly varied musical styles performed with taste and talent. The opening track, “Real Good Sign,” for example, is a bit of a shocker as it bursts out of the silence like an updated jump blues performed by the ghost of Wynonie Harris.
“Tear It Up” – a cover of a tune by rockabilly pioneer Johnny Burnette — is an almost idealized version of the form, with a bullet-speed running bass line, reverb, echo, and all, making it sound just like 1953. The title track, at position six, begins with a clever musical riff on the classic Bo Diddley beat, played by Mike McMillan and underscored by the superb blues harp of Steve Guyger.
By the time “Before This Song is Over” plays, the band has two-stepped into a slow groove with an R&B shuffle and some sweet harp playing. Likewise, “Georgia Slop” opens with a Diddley-like riff only to jump – surprisingly — into surf guru Dick Dale territory with guitar blast and vocals to match.
Throughout this enjoyable album, the band has synthesized music from jump/early R&B to surf, dead-ahead Chicago blues, rockabilly, Chuck Berry-vintage rock and roll, southland boogie and more. There’s even an ode to The Band on “Do the 45.” More surprises turn up among these 18 tunes, played with homage to their classic influences, but individualized by the band’s instrumental mastery. Recommended.
Originally published in Blues Revue, June, 2011.
Review by Michael Cala
Rhythm Rockin’ Boogie
Cabernet Records 009