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"

It’s 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 band’s 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 Mama’s 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, that’s as integral to the blues as such anguished soliloquies as John Lee Hooker’s "Serve Me Right To Suffer" of B.B. King’s "The Thrill Is Gone."

Whether they’re hilariously snake-bit, on "Blue to Blue," or chagrined for being far too trouble-free for proper blues men, Blue Mama’s singer-songwriters play the angles the form affords.

"I’m 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 TV’s impossibly alluring illusions as the source of today’s 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
Winter 1998
"New Releases"
by Catfish Whitey
(Managing Editor
Leland Rucker)

Catfish Choice (Editor Recommendation)

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 :Who’s 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
January - February 1998
"blues bites"

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
July 11-17, 1997
"Locals Only"

Blue Mama by Rich Kane

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 "Who’s 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

May/June 1998
by  Peter R. Aschoff.

Blue Mama is  a West Coast sextet that blends blues, rockabilly, and a touch of jazz in a string-band format.  All six men share vocals on the all-original program, with Marty McPhee's harp and Joe Lehr's dobro carrying most of the instrumental load.  With humorous and ironic lyrics (try TV Girls, A Different Brenda, and Girl in a Red Dress) and a lack of posturing, Blue Mama's songs provide a pleasant change of pace.

Relix , June 1999
"On the Edge," by Mick Skidmore
page 61

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)

Rootstown Music Magazine Number 1 APR/MEI/JNI '98

(Song Listings, total time)

Groepen met namen zoals dese veroorzaken bij mij meestal hetzelide effect als een biefstuk die de benen neemt.  Fout natuurlijk, want de inhoud kan nog altijd smaken en dat is hier wei degelijk het geval.

Blue Mama is een groepje met een kem van zes zeer gewone mannen waarvan er vier op een of andere manier lets doen met snaren.  Zo wordt er uitgebreid getokkeld op akoestische en elektrische gitaren (gewone, 12 strings, Nationals, slide), metal body dobro's, mandolines en bassen, een kluifje voor de liefhebbers dus.

De breeddenkende liefhebbers weliswaar, want dit is geen doordeweekse blues-CD, dit zijn geen gasten die de lengte van hun neus als maatstaf hebben.  Quasi alle songs zijn zelfgeschreven nummers waarvan het grootste deel uit de pen van Dennis Roger Reed werd gewrongen, maar ook de anderen
weten hoe een song moet klinken en hun grootste gemene deler is het besef dat muziek de wereld miet verandert en dat je er maar beter kan voor zorgen de luisteraar z'n lippen voor een tijdje in gimlachstand te zetten.  Kan ook niet anders met teksten die handelen over de kwaliteit van potgrond, een gast die zijn grieten vergelijkt met die op TV en er depressief van wordt, een stijve hark die wordt gedwongen tot dansvioergewriemel, onze eilgenste
P.P. Rubens die wordt geprezen om z'n goede smaak wat betreft z'n modellen, gefrustreede huisvouwen en hun bezigheden, en andere leuke onzin.

Geografisch bekeken levert dit een landschap op met een dal (de
verwaarloosbare live-song "Pissin"), een onoverzichelijke hoop heuveltjes en een redelijk aantal pieken. Na een vlot swinende openingstrack is het al zover met "Blue to Blue"; geopend door een voodoo-harp is dit een kortfilmpje over een Haitiaanse schone die een kortfilmpje over een Haitiaanse schone die, gedreven door de bezwerende kartchen van orgel enpercussie, haar aardappelmesjie in een zelfgemaakte pop drijft waarbij de
rauwe wah-wah perfect het ijskoud binnendringende staal weergeeft.  Aan de overkant van de oceaan zit een nietsvermoedende kerel op het toilet te zweten tijdens een pijnlijke ontlasting, waarvan hij denkt dat een binnengespeelde graat tijdens die laatste vismaaltijd op Haiti de oorzaak is.  Op de tonen van een als een doodskiok rinkelende harp geeft hij de geest met die achtergelaten schone op z'n netvliezen.  Laat u vooral niet misleiden want volgens de tekst is het de man die in vlug tempo door z'n twee dames werd achtergelaten, maar dat is te banaal, mijn gieten trappen het ook om de drie dagen af.  De rest van de CD is niet zo filmisch, maar who cares, zolang er een beentje kan uitgeslagen worden op het rockende "Goin' Dancin", het boogiende "Ding Dong Daddy" en de snelwegsong "Tonight
Tonight" met de gitaren gierend lands de grond en de bas die de
uitlaatgassen eruit spuugt.  De redelijk zwaar op de maag liggnede gitaren in "It Only Hurts" worden luchtig gehouden door een speelse Farfisa en de wiegende "TV Girls" worden gestree;d door eem hitsige slide.

English Translation

Bands with names like Blue Mama usually cause me the same effect as a bad steak.  This is sometimes wrong off course, because the contents can still taste good and that is the case here.

Blue Mama is a band of six very ordinary men with four of them who can do something on a guitarThey play extensively on acoustic and electric guitars, metal body dobro's, mandolins and basses, something for a guitar lover.

A broad thinking guitar lover because this is not an ordinary blues CD.  Almost every song is written by the band players, but the most out of Denis Roger Reeds pen, but the rest of the band knows how a song should sound.  Because they know that music doesn't change the world and because of that statement you can better make sure that the listeners shut up for a while with a smile on their faces.  That shouldn't be difficult with a song about the quality of soil, a guy who compares his chicks with the ones on TV and gets depressed, or our own P.P. Rubens is praised for his good taste for frustrated house wives, and other nice crap.

Geographically this CD looks like a landscape with a valley (the neglectical song Pissin)- a few hills and a fair amount of reasonable highlights.  After a swinging opening track it is already like that with "Blue to Blue"; opened by a voodo harp, this is a short film about a beautiful Haitian women, driven by unusual forces of an organ and percussion, sticks her potato knife in a hand made doll with a raw wah-wah effect.  On the other side of the ocean is a non suspicious guy sitting on his toilet, sweating while he has a painful shit, off which he thinks it is caused by a fish bone he ate on his last visit to Haiti.  Don't let yourself be misled, because the man who was dumped by his two women, is an ordinary guy.

The rest of the CD is not as move like, but who cares, as long as we can dance to the rocking "Goin' Dancing", "Ding dong Daddy" and "Tonight Tonight, with blasting guitars and a bass.   The heave on the stomach sounding guitars in "It Only Hurts" become light by a playful Farfisa and the "TV Girls" are stroked by a great slide.

Big City Blues, April/May 1998, New Blues by Mark Gallo, p. 52
Blue Mama:  Samrday (sic) Nigh! (sic) Suburbia   (PlasticMeltdown Records)

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
November 1997
"CD Reviews"
by Jon Pepper

Blue Mama - Saturday Night Suburbia

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 doesn’t 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.