By Scott Yanow, Jazz Journalist/Historian
We must ask Big Mama Thornton, Elvis Presley, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Blind Boy Fuller, David Jr. Kimbrough, Big Jay McNeely, Buddy Guy, The Rolling Stones, Grady Gaines Jr.: how did blues vocalist Carolyn Gaines produce a straight, re-framed Blues-Rock n’ Roll CD called Beware Of My Dog on Polka Dot Records.
On Beware Of My Dog, Ms. Gaines has revealed herself to be an important new blues singer. 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. Big Jay McNeely’s features his distorted tone and 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 Howlin’ Wolf’s 1961 “Back Door Man,” with its growls and rasps. Her menacing tone may sound a little scary but it is also quite alluring. “Stone Out Your Raggly Mind, akin to Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do,” features Grady Gaines Jr. on tenor 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, creating a performance for us to fall in love. Gaines undated the song with her sexy, smooth deep, passionate alluring twist from Buddy Guy’s 1990’s version, while McNeely blows the roof off this, his 1959 hit song.
Bill Da’Sheill mixed, engineered Beware of My Dog album at Leon Haywood’s Sunny Side Studio in Los Angeles. This hit album mastered by Robert Honablue worked on projects by Miles Davis, Janis Joplin, Barbara Streisand, Ike & Tina Turner, George Benson, and Carlos Santana.
Special thanks to producer Leon Levy! And special thanks to all my fans, Fred Clark-guitarist, Chad Wright-drummer, promoter Blind Raccoon, and radio station DJ’s for spinning Beware of My Dog! !
“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
Carolyn Gaines “Blues Schools”
Listen to: “Beware of My Dog” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ffWCXn2nys
Listen to: “Charlie Mae & Chicago” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RboEGbwDHk8
Listen to: Carolyn Gaines “Born To Play Guitar” (written by Buddy Guy) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nZSLsIvaoE
Listen to: Carolyn Gaines “I Got Dreams” (Buddy Guy’s veersion of the Otis Redding song) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVrVAOr5fcQ
Carolyn Gaines Photos by: Catherine & Sadiq, Beware My Dog CD Cover by Glen Doll
Special Thanks to ‘Boomer’ on front cover Beware of My Dog courtesy of the King of Blues B.B. King’s daughter Rita King’s charming dog.