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The Last of His Kind

I’m not gonna go so far as to say that David Vest’s new CD is his “Graceland.” It is, however, one of those excellent collections of songs that cover the range of an artist’s career; one that defines “The Music.” Jeffrey St. Clair once called Vest’s music “rock and roll for grown-ups.” The CD, “Rock a While,” is Vest at his grown-up best.

This CD, his first in five years, covers all the bases traveled by Vest over his half-Century plus at the keyboard; barrelhouse piano right out of the Pine Camps of his native Alabama; great blues story-telling from the Fulbright Scholar poet; funky jazz; sweet shuffles and grand versions of little-known gems from Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon’s superb treasure “It Don’t Make Sense (You Can’t Make Peace).”

David paid his dues playing with the greats: Big Joe Turner, the Jimmy Dorsey Band, Bill Black’s Combo with Ace Cannon, Lavelle White, Jimmy T99 Nelson, Floyd Dixon…he even wrote the first songs ever recorded by the late, celebrated “First Lady of Country Music,” Tammy Wynette. Now, after a lifetime of sitting in with these and many other great names in blues, jazz and country, David is on a roll.

He moved to the Northwest a decade ago and was first a founder of The Cannonballs. He then teamed up with Paul deLay and co-fronted with the late chromatic harp master for five unforgettable years. That collaboration produced “The Last of the Best,” one of the finest live blues albums ever; one that, like “Rock a While,” should be in any serious aficionado’s collection. Another excellent live, must have CD from Vest, “Way Down Here” also features deLay and many other leading Blues musicians.

Most of the same musicians, top pros all, have been playing together for years and join Vest here on this latest effort. The members of the legendary Paul deLay Band – Peter Dammann, Jeff Minnick and Dave Kahl – are on board. Many tracks are live from roadhouse gigs and the incomparable Portland Waterfront Blues Festival.

The title boogie “Rock a While” propels one onto the dance floor from the first notes – Alan Hagar burns it up on guitar on this one. Peter Dammann’s guitar just nails it on Dixon’s “It Don’t Make Sense (You Can’t Make Peace).” “Rock a While” and the B. B. King-like “Running Partner” should be getting a lot of airplay – not just on Blues shows – as should the clever love song, “Let’s Go Too Far.”

It’s the rare album that hits it out of the park on every track. My buddy Maryann called it “totally danceable” the first time she heard it. After playing it endlessly for all my friends, my ten-year-old CD player just up and quit. I won’t go so far as to say it’s too hot to handle. But, hell, I will say it’s David Vest’s “Graceland.”

MICHAEL DONNELLY first heard and met David Vest at a Paul deLay show and has been a fan ever since. Paul has left us, but David assures that “the music” carries on. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com

WORDS THAT STICK

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MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com

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