African Wind - Dan Treanor & Frankie Lee - Reviews

 

 

"Colorado blues man Dan Treanor has been at it for 35 years. He's an outstanding writer, a Blues in the Schools instructor, a noted harp player, and a multi-instrumentalist who builds many of the traditional African gadgets he plays. Frankie Lee is an old-school black soul shouter, classic in every sense. The two recently collaborated in the studio. What could that possibly sound like? Well, African Wind sounds familiar and brand new all at once. There are primeval, exotic rhythms similar to those that sound out from an ancient village, or similarly, from a juke in the Mississippi hills. It has fabulous songs that touch on a wide range of emotions. The soul is poured on in heaps, the rock 'n roll scattered on top. It boogies with heat."

-Tom Clarke
Hittin' the Note
Issue 44, 2005 

 
   

A Winning Wind: Africa meets America on an unusual new collaboration

"There seems to be a new, untapped outpost for blues: Colorado. First, Otis Taylor unleashed his music upon the world, no comes Dan Treanor. Treanor might not be known outside Colorado blues circles, but he soon will be: This powerful album features the intensity of Delta blues, the instruments of Africa, and the vocal assistance of West Coast soul man Frankie Lee.
African Wind turns out to be a 15-song masterpiece.

"In addition to harmonica, acoustic guitar, dobro, keyboards, and bass, Treanor plays traditional African instruments such as ngoni (a four or seven stringed banjo), khalam (guitar), kalimba (thumb piano), and djembe (hand drum). The percussive expertise of Gary Flori, who helped record the album, gives African Wind additional flavor. Since the music has a drive that evokes North Mississippi hill country blues, it's startling to hear Lee's soul vocals fit comfortably into the mix. The songs have their own individual markets: "
Mean Woman Blues" uses the hypnotic drum pattern of "Willie and the Hand Jive," while "Tell Me Mama" employs the cadence of "Sweet Home Chicago." The title track is loaded with instrumental effects, most notably the kalimba, which sounds something like an open musical jewelry box. "Black Hanna" sounds like Dick Dale Playing the diddley bow.

"In the blues, "different" is sometimes seen as akin to "scary bad." Not in this case. Treanor and Lee have created a unique, refreshing disc that could mark a cornerstone in the genre's evolving sound.
African Wind is a stone cold winner."

-Lou Friedman
Blues Revue
January, 2005 

 
   

"This collaboration between soul singer Frankie Lee and multi-instrumentalist bluesman Dan Treanor definitely utilizes some African elements, but the title might be an exaggeration. At heart it's very much a straightforward (and excellent) blues record. Of course, the blues does have its roots in African music, but they're not as widely explored as they might be. "African Wind" comes closest, with kalimba (and Lee doing his best Taj Mahal imitation), and "Cane Flute Soul" brings in fife and drum again, originally from West Africa, but really more familiar from Mississippi hill country. "The Griot" pays tribute to the African historian storyteller and historian, but with very American style. That said, Treanor does use ngoni and khalam (although it's hard to hear the former). But don't come looking for the kind of African-American connection you'll find in, say Ali Farka Toure; it's not there and doesn't pretend to be. In spite of Treanor's instrumental abilities, it's Lee who's the star of the show here, with a big, broad voice that's perfectly at home in the blues, whether on the acoustic "Tell Me Mama" or the fast shuffle of "Who's Playing Who." He's a talent who deserves much broader exposure, and if there's any justice, he'll get it from this."

-Chris Nickson
All Music Guide
November, 2004 

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"It's easily the best Blues CD I've heard this year! Frankie Lee is a highly gifted singer based out of Oakland, CA, who rightfully belongs in the same league as Otis Redding, and Bobby 'Blue' Bland.

"...It's the next best thing to having a front table at a North Mississippi juke joint. Fred Litwin of NorthernBlues must have the most highly developed instincts of any Blues label owner around. He certainly gets hundreds of recordings to listen to, yet immediately he realized that this one was something unique and special. I truly believe that
African Wind is the best release ever on his label, and that's no small testimonial, given that he's had such super talents as Otis Taylor, Kevin Breit, John Dickie, Janiva Magness, Danny Brooks, J-W Jones, David Jacobs-Strain, and Toni Lynn Washington featured on his imprimatur. This African Wind will blow you away!"

-Gary Tate
Livin Blues
November, 2004 

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"Dan Treanor has a thing for handmade African-inspired instruments and the harmonica. Texas-born Soul shouter Frankie Lee has kicked around the biz since his Ike and Tina Turner days, played with Albert Collins for nearly a decade, and is credited with a couple recordings with Doug Newby and the Bluzblasters and three solo albums, the best being an early Hightone release with a few Dennis Walker compositions, The Ladies and The Babies. Providence has brought them together for African Wind, a collection of hard-to-describe tunes with eclectic instrumentation. Both acoustic and electric, sometimes with a screaming guitar, as on "True Love" (Is that a cheesy farfisa I hear?), oft times resembling the Hill country music of Mississippi but with a half twist. Try "Cane Flute Soul", for example. The music varies from the Bo Diddley beat of "Mean Woman Blues" to "Love A Woman's Soul," which seemingly descended from Congo Square.

Remember the diddley bow? Get your fill of it here, along with the khalam, ngoni, and djembe. Last time I heard a thumb piano was Earth, Wind, and Fire! Even the usually intrusive drum programming was seamlessly integrated. Dazzling combinations of sounds, a great voice, and an imaginative mix make this CD a sure bet for the Handy Award program in multiple categories. It is great to see Frankie Lee get a shot at the recognition that had eluded him and he so richly deserves. Now everyone can appreciate what Californians have known for years, Frankie Lee is the real deal.

If you are looking for something fresh and new but that still combines traditions old as the hills, which is especially hard to accomplish in this medium, give this recording a whirl.

A tip of the bandana to Fred Litwin of NorthernBlues for having the foresight, or balls, to release this kind of material and Dave McIntyre of the Colorado Blues Society for turning Fred on to it.
Rated 9 out of 10."

-Beardo
Blueswax
November, 2004 

 
   

"This new release by Dan Treanor and Frankie Lee, on Fred Litwin's award-winning Northern Blues label in Canada, is one of the finest rousing and fun blues CD's that's ever crossed my musical path. Enlightening, entertaining, energetic and a whole lotta fun!!!! All that and more!!! Superlatives galore wouldn't suffice to describe the absolute joy in listening to this incredible CD.

As you can see, I'm very much taken with it. '
African Wind' features Frankie Lee's incredibly rousing, right-from-the-heart vocals, added to with zest and gusto by Dan Treanor's awesome harp playing, along with Treanor's impeccable acoustic guitar rhythms and leads. His musical approach is traditional in every way. The exhuisite taste with which he complements every vowel and word of Lee's out-of-this-world vocals, is a bond that's rare and very special in this day and age of commercialized, pre-packaged music of all kinds - including blues! These blues men came Litwin's way via Dave McIntyre of the Colorado Blues Society. http://www.coblues.com/

Just listen to Lee sing out "I don't know what to do. I believe I've been kidnapped by the blues", in the song of the same name - "
Kidnapped By The Blues". This is followed by the upbeat "Texas Son", featuring Lee belting out, "I'm a Texas son . a long way from home." The amazing rhythms is this and every song on 'African Wind', are added to by some rare and wonderful African instruments, namely the 'Diddley Bow', the 'Umakeyana', the 'Ngoni', the 'Khalam' the 'Kalimba' and the 'Djembe'. It's mentioned in the informative and entertaining liner notes (provided by Northern Blues founder Fred Litwin) that the 'Diddley Bow' is probably the first instrument that many of the legendary blues men played - such as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, B.B. King, etc. The 'Diddley Bow' is basically (cotton) baling wire nailed to the side of a cabin or barn, with wood pushed under it at either end - then a glass bottle or metal pipe slid along it, while being plucked at the same time. ("Cut With Dynamite" among other tracks, features some of this sweet slidin'.) Talk about innovation - and also the very basic and most beautiful essence of the birth of the blues for most of the true innovators of this genre. This is truly it!

Erica and Peggy Brown provide some extremely soulful background vocals and call and answer to Lee's soulful vocal yearnings in "
Lonesome Road" among others. "Mean Woman Blues", the second tune on this superlative blues CD, begins with some very emphatic African percussion, and continues with Lee's determined vocals and Treanor's energetic harp accompaniment. My personal favorite is "Tell Me Mama". It's rousing blues at its best, by those who know how to get a place hoppin' - as Treanor and Lee definitely do - with good taste and total class all the way!

There are so many .. and too many (all at the same time) good things to say (in a review) about the 15 absolutely perfect blues tunes on this amazing first CD on the Northern Blues label for Dan Treanor and Frankie Lee. I feel every blues fan owes it to their love of the blues to give '
African Wind' a listen. After that, maybe it'll become a favorite of yours, as it has become mine!"

-Joe Curtis
http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/reviews1/joe.htm
September, 2004 

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