Reviews of CD "Saturday Night Suburbia"
|Los Angeles Times
Saturday August 30, 1997 Blue Mama Plays Music With A Wink and a Smile
by Mike Boehm
(Ratings range from * (poor) to **** (excellent),
with three stars denoting a solid recommendation.
Album Review- "Saturday Night Suburbia"
Its not unusual to find an aspiring blues band playing with gritted teeth, as if strain and visible sweat, rather than ancestry, could vouch for its right to drawl and bend notes. One suspects that, if the members of Blue Mama ever grit their teeth, it would be to stifle the urge to collapse in laughter.
"Saturday Night Suburbia" is roots music with a wink, played by veterans who view their performance not as a test of authenticity but as a reason to have some fun with the form. The bands fundamental humor and musical vitality come nonstop, making this 19-song, hour-plus excursion go by like an express train through a sleepy burg.
Musical humor seldom works without seriously good performances, and Blue Mamas ensemble of South Orange County stalwarts get blues music (and tangential county, pop, and R&B strains) right before they twist it. Key contributors are Tim Horrigan, playing an insouciant barrelhouse piano and lively organ; guitarists Joe Lehr and Dennis Roger Reed, and Marty McPhee, who dabs on raspy splashes of Chicago-blues harmonica.
Sometimes the humor is in the playing itself, as in the goofy syncopated percussion on "Blue to Blue" or in the dumb, slobbery fuzz-guitar solo Lehr lobs into "Tonight, Tonight" like a big spitball. More often, the fun comes through in the spirit of the band and in the wry singing and songwriting. Reed is the most prolific writer among a consortium of near-equals.
The lyrics usually turn on pithy witticisms, and the vocal performances back them up with just the right tone: a note of long-suffering, good-humored complaint, thats as integral to the blues as such anguished soliloquies as John Lee Hookers "Serve Me Right To Suffer" of B.B. Kings "The Thrill Is Gone."
Whether theyre hilariously snake-bit, on "Blue to Blue," or chagrined for being far too trouble-free for proper blues men, Blue Mamas singer-songwriters play the angles the form affords.
"Im trying to live the blues, gets a little harder every day / Tryin to live the blues, good fortune gets in my way," Lehr rasps with deadpan annoyance in "Tryin the Blues."
Mainly, though, Blue Mama is preoccupied with sex. Reed aptly cites TVs impossibly alluring illusions as the source of todays sexual hang-ups ("TV Girls") and instead pledges his prurient interest to an Old Master in "Peter Paul Rubens." A nifty acoustic-chugger knockoff of Nick Lowe, this may be the funniest song about sex and art since the Modern Lovers "Pablo Picasso."
Peter Paul Rubens was a master of dark and light
Back in the 1600s, he chose his models right
He painted ample naked woman, lordy what a beautiful sight
I may not know much about art, but I know what I like
A few songs are delivered in earnest. "Mackenzie Breaks" is a good representation of early-70s county rock a la Jackson Browne. "A Different Brenda," an anthem with a catchy country-Beatles mixture, puts in the Blue Mama knack for phrase-spinning to work in a more serious context. Horrigan plays a manipulative boyfriend who deservedly gets dumped, leaving him to mull, dejectedly, "It was the best of times, for even the worst of wines / And I must have had too many when I saw her on the street the other day."
Blues Access Magazine
Blue Mama - Saturday Night Suburbia
Given the rowdy atmosphere here, you would not do wrong to plunk down the cover charge for a night with these guys. The 18 (count em) tracks pretty much cover every blues/rock foundation, from the country honk of "Only in My Dreams" to the Jerry-Jeff Walkerish :Whos Been Pissin in the Beer." And they score big points for the first rockabilly song about painter Peter Paul Rubens famous nudes. ("Back in the 1600s he chose his models right," singer Dennis Reed observes wryly. "I may not know much about art, but I know what I like.") Huzzah. (PlasticMeltdown)
Blues Revue Magazine
Blue Mama by Ed Ivey
Next up, West Coast group Blue Mama with Saturday Night Suburbia (PlaticMeltdown Records PMRCD-181), presenting an Americana/folk-rock bent to their blues with some serious hippie rock overtones - psychedelic guitar chunks dropping in and out, spacey vocals. I could see these guys during their younger days hanging out in the boonies at key parties and listening to Captain Beefheart and the Flying Burrito Brothers. They sort of sound like The Band at times, and easy going California sound. Special kudos to Marty "Cadillac" McPhee for achieving a mean harmonica sound - and great chops, too! A couple of the tunes are semi-dogs, which is bound to happen with 18 songs on one disc.
Orange County Weekly
What was it that got us all hepped up over Blue Mama? Was it our primal urge to hear some hazy, old bar-band blues? Was it the vocal chops of Dennis Roger Reed and Joe Lehr, who appealed to our inner Dead-head with their gruff resemblance to Pig-Pen (with "Girl in a Red Dress" especially sounding like a hidden track from American Beauty)? Was it the Little Feat-funkiosity of "Southern Light?" Was it their too-funny bio, which, in its list of influences, says that drummer Brent Hoffenberg "worked briefly with John Mayall, carrying his amp into the Coach House" and that Lehr once saw Eric Clapton at the airport? Nope, nope, nope, and nope. What caught our ear was the track "Whos Been Pissin in the Beer," which, if not one of the best titles ever, is at least the greatest song Jimmy Buffet never wrote.
Living Blues Magazine
|Relix , June 1999
"On the Edge," by Mick Skidmore
|Blue Mama is a California sextet that plays original rock 'n 'roll
and blues. Its debut album, Saturday Night Suburbia, contains 18 original songs that have
more than a touch of humor about them ("TV Girls," "A Different
Brenda," and "Who's Been Pissin' In The Beer.") Musically, the group is
more than competent (witness the spiraling guitar solo on "Countin' On You") and
flits from acoustic to electric music with ease. Check out the band's Website at
|Dirty Linen, June/July 1998 Page 89
|Blue Mama Saturday Night Suburbia (PlasticMeltdown PMRCD181 (1997)
Blue Mama combines elements of a number of musical styles into a bluesy-swinging pop that
is a medium for their not-terribly serious original songs. The music is a
guitar-driven blend of acoustic and electric instruments that is generally pretty
easy on the ears. The songs and production quality vary widely,
but after several listenings, the odder, rougher quality material turns out to be
the most charming. (AA)
|Big City Blues, April/May 1998, New Blues by Mark Gallo, p. 52
|Blue Mama: Samrday (sic) Nigh! (sic) Suburbia
Marty "Cadillac" McPhee's vocals on "Blue to Blue" reminds me of David Bromberg, and that's a pretty good representation of what this is about. Acoustic and electric guitars, harp, drums, and bass, with some country influences and a plenty good collective sense of humor. The kind of band that probably has one of the most loyal fan bases on the planet. If I was in the shadow of San Onofre, I'd be in the thick of it with 'em, too.
Southland Blues Magazine
This album contains some very eclectic blues. While the lyrics deal with subjects ranging from the usual fare to an ode to Peter Paul Rubens, the famous painter, the music is a retread of many blues albums heard before.
The band is well rehearsed and the players are all fairly good. Joe Lehr on guitar and Marty "Cadillac" McPhee on harmonica head up the group with everyone pitching in on vocals. Both of these plays (sic) have some nice licks, but nothing too spectacular.
The rest of the group is solid with an above average level of playing, but the mediocre level of the compositions holds down the whole recording. Lyrics like these deserve slightly better music than this to do behind them.
This is one of those albums that does not deserve a bad review, but also doesnt deserve overwhelming praise. I'm not sure what to say here. It is an above average disc on the whole, but not the half, butt not anything to go out of your way to get.