Little Mike & The Tornadoes - Forgive Me

No surprises, but it's as raw and real as it gets ...
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New York-based Little Mike And The Tornadoes first came to prominence as the backing band for a pair of 1980's recordings by Pinetop Perkins (1988's After Hours) and Hubert Sumlin (1989's Heart And Soul).  A few scattered recordings have since followed, but Forgive Me is the band's first new recording in quite some time.

The template hasn't changed much - hard-driving twelve-bar grinders and belly-rubbers predominate, though there are a couple of original compositions that avoid cliché quite nicely. 

It's music that achieves greatness through the sum of its parts rather than individual instrumental excellence.  Mike himself is no slouch, but he chooses his spots for maximum musical effect, not to impress.  Guitarist Troy Nahumko's work is inventive, full of twists and turns and choked notes that sound ripped from the soul; there are smoother guitar players around, and others who'd manage to squeeze a lot more notes in, but Nahumko's notes are invariably just right.   The rhythm section - drummer Cam Robb and bassist Chris Brzezicki - play with pile-driving power (if not a great deal of subtlety), augmented by bits of piano courtesy of Jim McKaba and lap steel from living legend Sonny Rhodes.  There are also un-credited horns on a handful to add a welcome bit of texture to proceedings.

The material, all by Markowitz apart from a pair from Nahumko, ranges from the one-two opening punch of instrumental "Opelousas Rain" and "Wait A Minute Baby," both mid-tempo grinders, to the chunky and raucous "Tell Me Baby" and the punchy, brassy Texas sound of "You Don't Love Me" (not the Willie Cobb tune of the same name).

There aren't any real musical surprises, in short, and the influences are obvious, albeit classic.  But it's solid, unpretentious, sweaty and real.  Markowitz is a convincing vocalist and his squalling harmonica is always effective. 

Not exactly groundbreaking, perhaps, but all in all a fine and enjoyable effort.