August 1998

Joe Beard - For Real
AudioQuest Music AQ-CD1049
Released: 1998

by Steven R. Rochlin

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]Influenced by none other than Matt "Guitar" Murphy (yep, the dude in the Blues Brothers), Joe Beard plays his guitar with great feeling and style. He was born in Mississippi -- how could he go wrong? Played in Chicago as his first outta-town gig. Maybe it's some kind of blues tradition that echoes here. Whatever it is, it surely has been proven over the years that guys like Joe Beard create their own tasty, well-received blues style. The variety of bluesmen on this CD range from the highly regarded in the "audiophile" community Mighty Sam McClain to the more mellow styling of Buddy Guy -- when he's alone and acoustic (though Joe chooses to use an electric guitar here).

The first song, titled "Drinking Old Taylor," is a wonderful back-beat blues with the added flair of Hammond B-3-wielding keyboardist Bruce Katz. Katz is so good he even has his own killer stuff available on the AudioQuest label, so check it out too). The second song -- oooh, yeah yeah, that second song -- "Don't Start Me Talking" is the typical, moving, ba-dum ba-bum stuff with schmokin' harmonica riffs and solos from blues heaven itself. Song three, "It's Up To You," has all those Mighty Sam McClain stylings with killer guitar attacks and solos added in to create a full-flavored blues jam.

There are 13 songs on this CD, and one of my faves is the mellow "Dirty Groundhog," where Joe is just strummin' mellow-like while flowing the lyrics even so slow. Reminds me of Buddy Guy on his must-have Alone and Acoustic [Alligator Records ALCD 4802], with Junior Wells. "If That's What Pleases Her" is my other fave. After all, what would the blues be without women that’s been done doin' us wrong? It's in the moving blues gusto which Joe sings out lyrics I can really relate to: "Yes, if that's what pleases her, then I wish her the very best. Yeah, the little girl gonna quit me...."

For those who care about sound quality too, how about a direct-to-two-track recording using the great Studer A-80 running at 30ips and all analog? Meanwhile the digital conversion was done using the highly rated Apogee UV-22 and mastered by Bernie Grundman. To wrap all this up, here's another great recording by AudioQuest where the music is a blues lover’s "must have" and the recording quality is just as great. Enough of this critical listening. Think I'll put this CD in the transport again.