By John Berbrich
FCE Staff 

Fistful of Gumption by Randy McAllister (2016) Reaction Records

 

Last updated 9/1/2017 at 4:49am | View PDF

Fistful of Gumption by Randy McAllister

A fifth-generation Texan, Randy McAllister has been playing his own brand of scrappy Blues for over a quarter-century. He's a vocalist, songwriter, and drummer who also plays harmonica and washboard. Fistful of Gumption is Randy's 13th album, recorded with his current touring ensemble, The Scrappiest Band in the Motherland. Let's check out his latest CD, song by song.

The fun starts with the soulful "C'mon Brothers and Sisters," which features a pounding beat, frequent tempo changes, and background vocals by Andrea Wallace, as well as burning guitar (Rob Dewan) and McAllister's harmonica. Next up is one of my favorites, the beautiful "Time for the Sun to Rise," written by Earl King Johnson. The flowing guitar provides a dreamy, wistful ambience, enhanced by Maya Van Nuys's poignant violin. "Ride to Get Right" is a rollicking righteous tribute to Otis Redding and Earl King, powered by frantic guitar and fiddle.


Dewan's big Blues guitar leads the way on Track 4, "Roll with the Flow," in which McAllister urges the listener to slow down and relax. Wicked harmonica drives "My Stride," urgent guitar grinding in the background, as McAllister tells us that his stride is long. In "Background Singer," which skips right along, McAllister tells the plight of the background singer, "Everybody needs their voice to be heard/ Everybody wants to make a difference in the world," but they're taken for granted. Andrea Wallace is background singer on this one.

"The Oppressor" is slow and dramatic, with the guitar and fiddle squeezing out every bit of expressive juice. The busy "Leave a Few Wrong Notes" speaks out against packaged perfectionism and product consumerism. A "Traveling music man" tells his "real-life story" in "Band with the Beautiful Bus": "I play for one/ I play for none/ I play for hundreds and thousands." And the final track, "East Texas Scrapper," could be McAllister's theme song. It's jumpy and disjointed, raunchy and strong. He tells it straight: "You can't outlast me/ You can't wear me down/ My super power is persistence/ And I keep on sticking around."

This is a rough jewel of a recording. McAllister writes all the songs (except for "Time for the Sun to Rise") and sings them in his rugged roadhouse voice. He drums on five tracks and plays a masterful harmonica. The other Scrappers are: Rob Dewan on guitar, Maya Van Nuys on fiddle, Matt Higgins on bass, Jimmy Reed bass on "Band with the Beautiful Bus," Andrea Wallace and Benita Arterberry-Burns on background vocals, Carson Wagner piano and organ, and Ron Thompson drums on "The Oppressor" and "East Texas Scrapper." This is honest hard-bitten work, absolutely worth more than a couple of listens.


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