Mr. Rick Sings About God & Booze
I know little about Mr. Rick.
Google tells me this is his third album, after a pair as Mr. Rick & the Biscuits. The press notes tell me he grew up in Detroit, and my ears tell me his musical foundation is most obviously in the guitar-based blues and roots music of the 50s, 60s, and early 70s.
While the glossy press will always gravitate toward folks like Shakey Graves and Nathaniel Rateliff (not disparaging them at all—fine, enjoyable performers if a little too polished) I hope there is always enough room for guys like Rick Zolkower. Gritty and no little bit loose, Mr. Rick Sings About God & Booze is a good time party album with depth: Saturday night and Sunday morning dancing rump to cheek.
The instrumentation is unrefined and entirely apt to the circumstance. A number of familiar Toronto-area musicians appear, including Alec Fraser , Steve Briggs, and Ted Hawkins.
As befits the title, the songs are all over the place, but they hold up as a collective force. “It’s the Bottle Talking” is a great old Cindy Walker (Country Music Hall of Fame) song best known by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys; Mr. Rick doesn’t change it up too much, maintaining the tempo while shading the backbeat. From the blues and Sleepy John Estes comes “Liquor Store Blues,” a rock ‘n’ roll song from way before there was rock ‘n’ roll. “One Kind Favour” has often been recorded in a variety of roots styles; Mr. Rick jumps it up and swings toward (maybe) B. B. King more than to either Blind Lemon Jefferson or Peter, Paul, & Mary.
“I’ll Fly Away” is a familiar country-gospel standard and is the album’s only misstep, while “I Know I’ve Been Changed” is a spiritual from way back as is “You’ll Need Someone On Your Bond.” “Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin” needs no introduction, but the similar “Don’t Put My Bourbon Down” is a Mr. Rick original. I know “Death Come Creeping in My Room” from Mance Lipscomb, and while Mr. Rick’s “Death Come in My Room” isn’t the same song I think they may share a common foundation.
While my favoured Americana is of the dusty folk and ‘grass traditions, there is naturally much to appreciate in the electrified blues and roadhouse gospel traditions that Mr. Rick has melded as his wheelhouse. Mr. Rick Sings About God & Booze won’t wear out its welcome anytime soon.