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Izzy & Chris – Preachin’ the Blues
East Side SlimBy East Side Slim

Izzy & Chris – Preachin’ the Blues

Izzy & Chris – Preachin’ the Blues
Vol. 1 – 80/20 Music Entertainment – 2008

Izzy & Chris are an acoustic blues playing duo based out of the Colliers, West Virginia/Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania areas. Israel “Izzy” Stetar plays guitar and sings with pleasantly gritty vocals, while Chris Nacy plays Seydel harmonicas (he is an official endorsee of the company). The duo is one of the best acoustic acts that I’ve heard in a long time. Izzy Stetar plays a lot of rhythm guitar, with definite influences of John Cephas present in Izzy’s chord progressions and ringing notes (intentional or not, Mr. Cephas is a wonderful influence to have.) Nacy is a very tasty harmonica player from the Les Izmore (less is more) school of harmonicats, and he possesses a wonderful tone.

This fine sounding recording is rooted in Piedmont style but doesn’t stay there entirely. The duo doesn’t seem to be trying to break new ground or to show off; instead they do what they do very well, with both passion and precision. Izzy & Chris first played together at an open stage in the summer of 2006. The warm reception they received, along with the evident chemistry between the musicians, convinced Izzy & Chris that they needed to join forces.

Izzy, born in Weirton, West Virginia, began playing guitar at the age of nine. When he was 17 years old and visiting New Orleans, he was exposed to the music of Robert Johnson, forever changing his musical vision. He has dedicated his life to music and the blues since that time. In fact, Izzy was a finalist at the 2006 International Blues Competition.

Chris was born in St. Louis and got his musical start on piano at the young age of seven, picking up harmonica down the road a piece age-wise. After playing out for several years, he seriously committed himself to playing music after the death of a mentor of his in 2002.

(Thanks to SonicBids.com for much of the preceding biographical information concerning Izzy & Chris)

For St. Louis fans, Izzy & Chris could be compared to the young local sometime-duo of Curran and Andrews.

The Songs:

1. Steady Rollin’ Daddy
--This song starts the set off in fine fashion, with Izzy delivering a gruff vocal and Chris quickly showing us how tasty a harmonica player he is. The man has great tone; I think we’ll be hearing more about this guy as the years go by.

2. All I Ever Wanted
--This one has a pretty melody that may get you to thinking John Hurt, with Izzy talk-singing the lyric.

3. Shame, Shame, Shame
--Izzy works the lyric nicely here, singing with passion and soul. This one is about a no-good gal who went and broke poor Izzy’s heart. Chris’ harp provides a melancholy edge to the tune.

4. Leavin’ You Baby
--This is one of those happy-sounding tunes about getting rid of one of those no-good gals! The song is mostly rhythmic in feel, with a couple squalling turnarounds thrown in to shake things up a bit.

5. Back To Memphis
--This track has a harder-edged Piedmont feel to it, with Piedmont blues-styled music crossed with Delta blues-styled lyric themes. In the end all that matters is that it sounds great!

6. Flat Broke and Busted
--No money to pay the rent, and his baby isn’t any help at all…man, this guy has definitely got the blues. The boys sure do manage to make being broke sound mighty pretty, though. The Piedmont blues style has an intrinsic quality of gentleness and beauty, so much the better to make your real life blues feel at least a little less desperate.

7. If You Hear Me Cryin’
--This cut has a little harder edged feel, with a bit of melancholy present. Of course, as this song is about trying to get back to that girl you’ve been away from far too long, feelings of longing and melancholy would be expected.

8. Gotta Find My Baby
--This one has a jaunty feel, set up by Izzy’s rhythmic patterns on guitar. Chris lays in some nice harp leads and fills as well. The band really has two “vocalists”, with one being Izzy’s singing and the other being Chris’ harmonica playing, which has a voice-like quality to it.

9. Country Blues #5
--This one is a little different. It has a very pretty melody, but Izzy speaks the lyric rather than singing it. Chris’s harp playing is beautiful here.

10. Fentanyl Blues
--We’ve got an up-tempo track that lays out the dangers of getting your kicks the chemical way. Cocaine, pills and booze won’t be able to make you truly happy if you’re not at peace with your own life. Those devils will grab hold very tightly before you even realize what has happened. Men, each of you get yourself a fine woman, and women, each a fine man, and all of you leave those devils alone – the chemical kicks that is!

11. Preachin’ The Blues
--This short, hard-boiled cut ends the album with a stream of consciousness feel.

The Verdict:
There seems to have been a resurgence of acoustic players and bands in recent years, and maybe that’s due to the desire to make things more real again musically. No matter the reason, I’m glad that Izzy & Chris have decided to make music together because they have produced a fine CD with Preachin’ The Blues - Vol. 1. I do wish that the duo would have included song credits in the liner notes, as people who have heard and enjoyed this CD could have been lead back to other artists whose music might also be enjoyed. But, that’s a minor quibble because Izzy & Chris have a winner on their hands with this CD. East Side Slim is assigning an STLBluesometer rating of 4.00 to Preachin’ the Blues – Vol. 1. Nice work, fellas!

For more information concerning Izzy & Chris, see the following websites:

Lee Howland - aka "East Side Slim"

The STLBluesometer

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