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Joe Price – Rain or Shine
East Side SlimBy East Side Slim

Melissa Neels Band – Shine
Joe Price – Rain or Shine
Blue Acres Productions, 2008

Joe Price’s name may be one many of you are unfamiliar with. If so, that’s a shame, but we’ll have that little problem licked shortly. Joe is a native of the Waterloo, Iowa area, and was raised in a railroading family. That early exposure to all things railroading have heavily influenced Joe, and you will find much railroading sounds, imagery and references in his music.
These days Joe primarily plays in a solo/duo guitar-only setting, with the other half of the duo being comprised of his wife, Vicki, who also plays guitar and sings. Joe will never be accused of being the strongest of singers, but his pleasantly raspy voice fits his music like red beans on rice; very satisfying indeed. Price’s claim to fame is his skill as a guitarist, and I would also include his abilities as a live performer. He is widely recognized as one of the world’s (yes, world’s) most renowned players of National Reso-phonic type steel guitars. This includes his work finger picking and his work with a slide. Joe is so well revered that he was a featured artist on a calendar and CD produced by the National company a few years back.
Fans of slide guitar will be in Heaven when they get their ears full of Joe’s raucous slide work and deft finger work. The guitars used on the recording of Rain or Shine are listed by track in the liner notes to the CD. According to those notes, Joe used a National ResoRocket on the majority of the tracks, along with a hard bodied Greg Bennett Avion Samick (think Les Paul custom in style) on a handful of tunes.

Rain or Shine is the 4th CD release under Joe’s own name. Other CDs are Designated Driver, 25 Below, and Requests, which is a CD format re-release of 2 cassette-only titles: Iowa Crawl and Mountain of Blues. Joe and is also a featured performer on Vicki Price’s CD A Brand New Place.

The Songs: (all songs by Joe Price, instrumental tracks denoted by *)

1. Hornet’s Nest
--I swear to God it sounds like 3 men are playing guitar here - nest of hornets indeed - but it’s just Joe all by his lonesome, giving his ResoRocket a heck of a workout and stomping his feet for rhythm. You would be hard-pressed to tell there wasn’t a band playing on this cut.

2. Joe’s Guitar Stomp*
--Joe takes his Samick solid body electric out for a spin here, working hard with his slide. The sound is full, gritty, distorted, raucous and absolutely joyous. I sure wish it went on longer than it does…

3. Too Little Too Late
--This is a slower tune, a deep blues, also played on his Samick electric, a song about when you know you’re about to lose your woman. Nothing you say or do now will matter once she reaches that point – it’s all too little, too late. You will hear shades of Kind-Hearted Woman quoted now and then, but Joe’s slide sound is all his own.

4. Nellie Bell*
--The name of this tune comes from the name Joe has given to the ResoRocket guitar he plays it on. If you’ve ever seen Joe play out live, you’ve seen the care with which he treats his guitars. This tune is a pretty, gentle, Sunday-morning front-porch excursion. Most of the time Joe plays in a somewhat raucous (but NEVER out of control) manner, especially when he puts a slide bar on, but he can play quietly and peacefully just as well and shows that side of his playing with this song.

5. Steel Guitar

--This is one of Joe’s railroad-themed songs, and you can actually feel the train moving along in the song’s rhythm. Joe’s wife Vicki plays 2nd guitar here (Joe focuses on slide on this cut), and takes the vocal as well. During a live show Vicki will typically share the stage with Joe for several songs, many times taking the vocals. This allows Joe to focus totally on his fretwork and sliding, which usually leads to amazing displays of musicianship.

6. Lu Lu*
--We’re taking a little ride along with Joe on his ResoRocket right here. It’s a raucous little tune, another one that I wish would continue on for 8, 9, 10 minutes, at least. I can’t get over how easy Joe makes this sound, all the while you are imagining that it must be taking 2 players to pull this off. It’s not, though. It’s just Joe.

7. Last Stop Now
--This is a slower track, also played on the ResoRocket. Mrs. Price (Vicki) plays 2nd guitar once again. Vicki is a very good player in her own right, and has released a couple of CDs in her name. This is a blues about a special lady having a tough time settling down and making a commitment to her man.

8. Blues On 12*
--The liner notes missed this track when stating which guitar was used on which track, but it’s the ResoRocket once again. Joe is a master of the Reso-phonic type guitar, as well as most electric guitars. He’s definitely a special musician, and you can see the bond he has with his guitars when seen in person. This tune is a gorgeous slow blues instrumental that all budding speed-freak guitar players should be required to listen to. So much feeling and emotion is displayed in this sparse arrangement...once again proving that the spaces between notes are vitally important.

9. Beer Tent Boogie Woogie
--We’re back to a raucous slide workout on the ResoRocket, with Joe singing of the fun and the pitfalls of spending a little too much time in the beer tent. I’m sure a few of us have been there! It’s a meant as a fun song, and as a means for Joe to play a whole bunch of hot licks and icy slide. Listen for the train coming by at the end of the tune, which is not an overdub. A train actually came by as the song was being recorded.

10. Rock Slide*
--This is the toughest song on the CD to hear – but only because it’s the last song on the CD. I did not want this to end. But, the listener can always push the start button again. This is a juke-joint styled band track, with Joe playing the Samick electric, Vicki playing 2nd guitar, their son Keni Ewing on Sam Carr-style drums and Al Naylor on trumpet. The trumpet really makes this thing fly. It’s an unusual combo, but sounds so joyous and “righteous” that you can’t help but smile – and if you can keep from dancing to this tune you have an over abundance of self-control. Get up and boogie!

The Verdict:

To be fair to everyone reading this review, I should mention that Joe Price is one of my favorite performers, and has been since I saw him perform live several years back while he was running a high fever. It was the first time I had been exposed to his music, and it was an epiphany of sorts for me musically. The best description of Joe Price’s music that I have come up with is infectious or contagious. The joy he derives from playing reaches out well beyond himself to his audience, grabbing their attention and almost demanding that they listen, infecting the audience with a dose of the joy that Joe is creating onstage. Amazingly, Joe is able to transfer that joyous feeling to his recordings, which is certainly the case here for Rain Or Shine. If you haven’t heard Mr. Price’s music before, this is a fine place to start from, but you really can’t go wrong with any of his releases. I’ve made it one of my mission’s in life to turn as many people as possible on to the music of Joe and Vicki Price. I have managed turn on several people so far, and I’m not about to stop now. The Prices play in St. Louis a few times a year, and play throughout North America year-round. If you happen to see a listing for Joe and Vicki playing nearby, get yourselves out there and treat yourselves to some fine music played by some fine people. STLBluesometer rating for Rain Or Shine is 4.50. If only the album was longer. Well, always try to keep the people wanting more.

For more information concerning Joe (and Vicki) Price, see the following websites:

Lee Howland - aka "East Side Slim"
The STLBluesometer

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