The Cletus Black Revue has made what might be the best live album ever to come out of a studio in the Cleveland area. An oxymoron, you say? Oh yeah.
Still, Not Too Blues sure has the feel of a live recording, with little overdubbing to re-create that onstage atmosphere. Black, one of Northeast Ohio's most prolific songwriters, wanted it that way. He's always stressed that the Cletus Black Revue is a band, rather than a vehicle to push the four Cletus Black CDs that he's released since 1997. This proves it. Only 4 of the 12 numbers are Black compositions. Harmonica ace Dave Morrison contributes two tunes, while guitarist Kevin McCarthy and viola player Michael Dreyfuss have one each. A quarter of the songs are covers.
Not Too Blues also shows how bluesy Black is. In spite of the album's title, this disc is a blues-rock gem. The increased role of Morrison, ex-frontman for the Chicago-style blues band Aces & Eights, has much to do with that, and his "Let's Talk It Over" and "This Girl Looks a Lot Like You" stand out.
What will most likely interest fans, however, are the covers. Black supplies a unique interpretation of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Green River." Unlike John Fogerty's faux-Cajun slur, you can understand the lyrics when Black sings. No "bathroom on the right" here. "Spoonful" is oddly tame, considering Black's gritty baritone should be suited to a Howlin' Wolf song. The gang redeems itself, though, with Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," which foams with the menacing delivery and macho insistence it was intended to have.
All told, this is one fine CD. Blues fans, don't pass it by.