East Side Slim
Joe Price – Rain or Shine
Blue Acres Productions, 2008
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
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
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.
--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!
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 information concerning Joe (and Vicki) Price,
see the following websites:
Howland - aka
"East Side Slim"