Carolyn Gaines debut album, Beware Of My Dog on Polka Dot Records, has revealed her to be an important new blues singer after Big Mama Thornton, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Lee Hooker, Big Jay McNeely, Grady Gaines Junior, Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones! The 1950’s blues and rock n’ roll is back!
Beware Of My Dog, blues author, blues teacher, Dr. Gaines, shows that Carolyn Gaines is both a student of the blues and a singer who does not copy her predecessors. Title track, “Beware Of My Dog,” has a connection to Big Mama Thornton’s and Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” and a 1950s blues vibe. Gaines’ voice sounds unlike anyone else. Legendary saxman Big Jay McNeely features his distorted tone, and it fits the song quite well. The lowdown, one-chord blues, “I’m Your Cat, Baby” has Carolyn Gaines displaying a menacing voice that is a similar to 1961 “Back Door Man” Howlin’ Wolf with its growls and rasps. Her menacing tone may sound a little scary but it is also quite alluring. “Stone Out Your Raggly Mind,” is akin to Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do” and features her cousin Grady Gaines Jr. on tenor sax blowing his infectious Chicago blues. Listen to how the singer’s bent notes sound as natural as talking. “Catch That Train,” inspired by John Lee Hooker’s 1962 “Boom Boom,” has the vocalist having a call and response with the band during the first section before it becomes a cooking blues.
David Junior Kimbrough’s “Done Got Old” is an intense country blues inspired by Buddy Guy’s 1990s interpretation, but Gaines has given a fresh new spin from the 1920’s and 30’s. As with Buddy Guy’s recording, this new version is intimate but quietly fiery with its own brand of restrained passion. On the low down one chord blues “I Want Your Money Honey,” Carolyn Gaines sounds quite dangerous, and exciting (a little like Ma Rainey), growling up a storm. One knows that she is going to get the money!
The singer’s “Mr. Dill Pickle” (inspired by Blind Boy Fuller’s “I Want A Piece of Your Pie” from 1939) is a good-time blues on which her lyrics sound contemporary. The performance with Glen Doll’s harmonica has the flavor of a 1930s Chicago blues. Her “Jerry Rice – Busy Man” is a country blues dedicated to the great football player. “Charlie Mae & Chicago,” dedicated to her mom Charlie Mae and Buddy Guy, has some highly expressive singing.
The closer, a remake of the Big Jay McNeely’s hit ‘Something On Your Mind,’ is an excellent revival that features a haunting, catchy bass line of Del Atkins, Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s organist Rudy Copeland, and strong contributions from Ms. Gaines’ vocals – sexy, smooth, passionate in a deep slightly-alluring-updated twist from Buddy Guy’s 1990’s version – and McNeely blows the roof off this, his 1959 hit song. They’ve created a performance for us to fall in love.
Bill Da’Sheill mixed and engineered Beware Of My Dog at Leon Haywood’s Sunny Side Studio in Los Angeles. This hit album was mastered by Robert Honablue who’s worked on projects by Miles Davis, Janis Joplin, Barbara Streisand, Ike & Tina Turner, George Benson, and Carlos Santana.
Formerly behind the scenes, Carolyn Gaines shows on Beware Of My Dog that she is ready to take center-stage with the blues greats of today. Special thanks to producer Leon Levy. And special thanks to all the DJ’s for spinning Beware Of My Dog!
By Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian
Where has she been? She has a lot of catchin’ up to do now that her debut is a winner. – Jim Santella/Southland Blues Magazine, 2018