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Play It 'Til Tomorrow

Nick Moss & The Flip Tops

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Album Review

Nick Moss wasn't well known outside of blues circles when he cut this generous two-CD, 28-song set in late 2007, but you can blame that on the fragmented nature of the music business at the start of the 21st century. Moss and his Flip Tops, a blues supergroup if there ever was one, are every bit as exciting as the Paul Butterfield Band was during its heyday, an outfit brimming over with talent. On this set the band includes keyboard, bass, and guitar man Willie Oshawny; Gerry Hundt on guitar, bass, harp, and mandolin; drummer Bob Carter; and Moss, on guitar, harp, and lead vocals, with special guest Eddie Taylor, Jr., on guitar. (Taylor's father, Eddie, Sr., played with Jimmy Reed.) After the first few tracks, you'll be thinking that this must be a big band; the Flip Tops put out an amazingly full, rich sound for a quartet, a big, gritty explosion of Chicago blues that clearly tips its hat to the Chess Records sound of the late '50s and early '60s. Two things elevate Moss and company above their influences and mark them as innovators, the original tunes Moss contributes and the fiery attack of the band. Disc one features the electric band and does what recorded music seldom does, by capturing the frenzy of a live date. "Late Night Saint" opens things up with its sexy stomping rhythms and Moss' trademark stinging guitar work. The ensemble contributes shouts of "give it to me, mama" to add to the track's boisterous feel. Things go into overdrive on "You Make Me So Angry" featuring a guitar duel between Moss and Taylor, Jr., and "Bad Avenue," which opens up with a frenetic instrumental interlude before dropping into a Ray Charles-style shuffle that features some of Moss' most blistering fretwork with stinging single-note runs that give way to flurries of jittery 32nd notes. "Lyin' for Profit," "Peculiar Feeling," and "The Rump Bump" will all have you jumping out of your chair with their smoky, grinding, late-night energy, as will the stomping groove of "Grease Fire," another showcase for Moss' guitar, goosed along by Oshawny's slick organ work. Disc two is all acoustic, but it displays the same furious energy of the Flip Tops electric band. "You've Got the Devil Inside" is driven by Oshawny's ferocious barrelhouse piano, Carter's drums, and Hundt's harmonica. "Crazy Mixed Up Baby '07" gives a tune from the Flip Tops' debut, First Offense, a makeover with Hundt pounding out a Leadbelly-like rhythm on guitar while Moss drops some clanging Delta blues leads into the mix. "I Shall Not Be Moved," a spiritual that was once a civil rights anthem, gets a funky reading from Moss on guitar and Hundt contributing chiming mandolin work. "It's Written in the Bible" is less spiritual and more apocalyptic with Oshawny's rippling right-hand runs and Hundt's harp adding to the tune's wicked groove. "Slim's Lament" is another unruly throwdown with Carter's kick drum supplying the bassline and Hundt's harp blowing up a storm. Moss' vocals throughout are masterful, by turns pleading and growling, a gruff primal bark dripping with urban grit. There's not a weak track on either set, another fine outing from a band at the top of its form. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Play It 'Til Tomorrow, Nick Moss & The Flip Tops
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