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Come On In by Downchild Blues Band

The Downchild Blues Band, Canada’s ’Premiere Blues Band’ for the past 35 years, has recently released their brand new, Juno-nominated CD, Come On In. This CD is Downchild’s first original offering in seven years, and is an awesomely inspiring collection of new, original Donnie 'Mr. Downchild' Walsh compositions. There’s only one non-Walsh tune on this CD; "How Long", written by Jackson/Scott/Schmidt,

Every song on Come On In is what any die-hard Downchild fan could hope to hear altogether on one CD. It’s obvious right from the start, that Canadian blues icon Donnie ’Mr. Downchild’ Walsh, has put a lot of heart and soul into writing these blues tunes. He’s also shown good taste in the top talent he’s chosen to perform with in these extremely satisfying songs.

The one and only James 'Superharp' Cotton, is featured on one of these tracks. Another of the very special guest artists on Come On In is renowned guitarist/jazz trumpet player, Jeff Healey (who’s recently been bestowed an honorary doctorate degree). Jeff also co-owns top blues nightclub, Healey’s, in Toronto’s trendy west end. Jeff's band, The Jazz Wizards, perform a matinee at Healey's every Saturday afternoon.

World-respected drummer Pentti 'Whitey' Glan (ex-Lou Reed/Alice Cooper/Johnny Winter/Mandala) is also featured on Come On In; as is Whitey’s old band mate; keyboard player/music producer Mike Fonfara (Downchild; ex-Lou Reed/Electric Flag).

Chuck Jackson sings most of the vocals on this CD, and plays some mighty fine harp, too -- along with Pat Carey’s 'hot' sax playing, and Gary Kendall’s always-in-the- pocket bass grooves. Kendall also has his own debut CD out too, (with many special guests), entitled, Dusty & Pearl, (named after his two favorite Fender basses that he’s owned for decades); In addition, there’s Mike Fitzpatrick(Downchild/Livin’ Blues Band; ex-Luke & the Apostles), whose inspired drumming, helps make this CD a real winner from beginning to end.

Last (but also ’first’), is Donnie ’Mr. Downchild’ Walsh himself - the co-founder (along with his late brother, vocalist Hock Walsh), of the Downchild Blues Band. Donnie’s input is that of 'blues father', 'protector', 'originator' - holding together, preserving and performing all that is good in blues. If Canadian blues has a 'root' to its existence, it could easily be attributed to this man!

'Mr. Downchild' rocks, and his newest CD, Come On In, rocks with him, as does the rest of this fine blues band; along with its very special and highly talented roster of gifted musical guests. This is the first Downchild CD to ever feature any special guests - let alone this many all on one CD! Drummer Glan has known Walsh since they were both teenagers in high school, in grade 9 together. Strange as it seems, these two Canadian music legends have never performed together until this CD recording was made - unusual, especially considering their musical paths have crossed countless times over the decades since they first met as kids.

From the moment the explosive title track, "Come On In" invites the listener to "Come on in out of the blues", the rhythms and rhymes are fast-paced, scorching party blues all the way! Walsh’s blinding slide playing on "Come On In", and the rush down the guitar neck in the intro, sets the pace for this intoxicatingly good CD. Fitzpatrick’s drumming rocks, as does Fonfara’s boogie-woogie piano playing and Jackson’s invitation to "Come on in where the music’s ‘hot’" -- and ‘hot’ it surely is! The horn section on this tune, is a solid wall of brass 'nuclear' fusion!

Gary Kendall’s bass playing jumps out at the listener on "Scars" -- a languishing, medium tempo blues tune, where Jackson’s vocals bellow out, "I’ve got scars, nobody can see -- scars that are haunting me." This premise must surely be the rock bed foundation of all that is blues. Jackson’s vocals are rousing on "Don’t Leave It Too Long", as is his incredible harp playing. Walsh’s harp playing is amazing here too; and is accentuated by legendary guitarist Jeff Healey’s blues leads that 'zing on the six string' -- along with Fonfara’s upbeat and soulfully inspired organ riffs; Kendall’s pounding bass rhythms and Fitzpatrick’s unrelenting talent on the skins.

Iconic harp king James 'Superharp' Cotton, is featured on "Sad, Sad Day", (another Donnie Wash original). Cotton’s harp playing throughout this tune, is a 'classic in its own time'. At some points, Cotton sounds like a harp orchestra, due to his full, fat harp tones that are in a 'magical, musical realm' all their own. Jim Casson’s laid back precision drumming helps give this tune the zest it possesses! (Casson was Downchild’s drummer when this Sept. 1999 recording was made, at the respected Metalworks Studio, All the other tunes on this magnificent CD were recorded at Metalworks, in Aug. 2004.

Mr. Cotton once mentioned to this writer, that years earlier he taught 'Mr. Downchild' Walsh to play harp. This goes a long way in explaining why Donnie is such a fine harp player today - He started with the best, and went on from there!. (Walsh and Cotton have been good friends ever since 'Mr. Superharp' sat in with 'Mr. Downchild' in the Downchild Blues Band, back in 1970). Cotton also mentioned this same evening (at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern in July 2002), that he himself was taught harp by the one and only Sonny Boy Williamson II as a boy of nine - inspired initially by listening to Sonny Boy’s 'King Biscuit' radio show.

Jackson’s mind blowing vocals belt out "There’s a blues band there", in the song of the same name. This tune also features Fonfara’s rousing and melodic piano riffs. Walsh plays some mouthwatering harp on this tune, as does Jackson. Tom Lavin (Powder Blues Band) plays a scorching guitar solo on this tune, that’s just amazing! Kendall’s rousing bass lines and Fitzpatrick’s steady, driving drumming are the ’gas’ that motorizes this extremely powerful ’blues engine’;;

"Jump Right Up" opens with some heavy-duty boogie-woogie piano riffs, supplied by Gene Taylor of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, ** (Taylor was Downchild’s keyboard player in the mid 1990s) His rapid-fire piano melodies are good for the soul. Jackson’s vocals wailing out, "Gonna make ya jump right up", "Don’t it make ya wanna jump", are some of the finest gut-wrenching vocals around. Walsh’s and Jackson’s harp playing is just incredible to hear on this song.

The pace slows down with "Tonight I Want To Dance With You". Jackson earnestly sings this message out, while Jeff Healey cries out his own musical plea on lead guitar. Peter Jeffrey’s flugel horn accompaniment echoes this same sentiment, as do Fonfara’s deeply moving organ harmonies. Kendall’s mournful bass lines in "Tonight .... " are made more vivid by Fitzpatrick’s insightful drumming.

Pentti 'Whitey' Glan supplies the funky drumming on "Now You’re Hooked"; which also features Fonfara’s funky, melodic organ riffs, along with Downchild’s strong, forceful brass section. Jackson’s vocals sum things up nicely with, "You never should have looked, but you did, and now you’re hooked." "Droppin’ Like Flies" features Fonfara’s tranquilly introspective organ riffs and Jackson’s mournful vocals which declare, "All my friends are droppin’ like flies."

"How Long" is the only non-Walsh tune on this phenomenal CD. It was written by Jackson, along with bassist Shane Scott, (owner of Toronto's Bass-Line Recording Studio) and guitarist Pete Schmidt, who are in blues band, Blues Approved. They’re also sidemen with Canadian harp impressario David Rotundo, -- a harp player as good and natural as they get! "How Long" is an upbeat blues winner that’s guaranteed to get the dance floor movin’ ‘n’ groovin’! Guitarist David Gogo’s solo in the middle of this rousing tune, is breathtaking! The only thing better than this, is to see Gogo perform live! Fitzpatrick’s drumming captures the spirit of this song with taste and finesse, and really grooves with Fonfara’s organ riffs. Carey’s sax solo on "How Long" is ’not long enough’ for this writer! Walsh’s guitar soloing in various parts of this tune is absolutely captivating!

Whitey’s drumming is right in the groove, in "A Garden In Her Front Yard". Donnie’s harp playing is absolutely hypnotizing in this tune, and his lead vocals are so reminiscent of his late brother Hock’s in vocal tone, that they’re nostalgic and refreshing to hear. Taylor goes wild on piano in this ’garden’, as do Gogo’s powerful lead guitar riffs.

"Cotton In My Ears" is a tasteful, slow blues instrumental tribute to the one and only James 'Superharp' Cotton. ’Mr. Downchild’s harp playing excels throughout this very fine composition. Overdubbing has allowed Walsh’s talent on guitar to complement his harp playing to the utmost!

"Cruisin’", the finale to this extremely entertaining CD, is a soulful blues instrumental. Fonfara’s keyboards excel on this tune, as does the outstanding ’wall of brass’ supplied by Carey on tenor, alto and baritone saxes; along with Jeffrey’s energetic trumpet melodies. Glan plays his soul out on drums in "Cruisin’", in a very happy-go-lucky and knowledgeable way - that’s a given, considering the decades he’s performed off and on with fellow Mandala member, vocalist George 'Mr. Soul' Olliver, who's a favorite in any venue he’s featured in. ** That includes a feature spot for him, as well as New Orleans sax great Johnny Pennino, in Chuck Jackson’s always entertaining Southside Shuffle Blues Festival. This fest is happening again this coming Sept. 2005 in Port Credit, Ontario, as its done annually for the past six successful years; (and is now entering its 7th Annual incarnation): ** Pennino and Jackson have recently released their own 'live in New Orleans' CD called, Chuck Jackson & Johnny Pennino, Live On Bourbon St.; recorded live at the Jazz Parlor on Bourbon St. in the 'French Quarter' of New Orleans, Louisiana. For more info and to order this Jackson/Pennino CD, contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

All in all, the Downchild Blues Band’s most recent CD, Come On In, is one of the finest recordings this illustrious blues band has ever made. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves rousing, hard driving blues at its very best - along with some meaningful, slow blues tunes as well. This CD’s guaranteed to capture the listener’s attention and keep it that way! So, ‘Come on in’ and enjoy it ... ‘outta the blues’ .... and ‘outta sight’!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Downchild Blues Band
  • CD Title: Come On In
  • Genre: Blues
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Independent
  • Rating: Five Stars
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