This is tassel-twirlin’, butt-shakin’ Texas strip joint blues. Sweetman’s raw, in-your-face tenor sax leads a down-and-dirty Austin R&B band (including veterans of the Fabulous Thunderbirds). A startlingly vivid recording: the kickass electric guitars, trumpet, sax, electric bass, and drums will get your backfield in motion. You’ll hear every detail: the spit in Sweetman’s mouthpiece, the dirt under the guitarist’s fingernails, and the delicate sound of satin panties as they fall to the floor. Stereophile proclaims, “The dynamic shadings are impressive…the sound remains articulate and focused…it could corrupt a bishop.” Includes R&B hits by King Curtis, Magic Sam and Jimmy Forrest.
1. Jest Smoochin' (King Curtis) -Listen to Full Song
2. Angela's Strut (M. Sweetman)
3. Backalley Blue (M. Sweetman)
4. Zipperlips (J. Morgan)
5. Lookin' Good (Magic Sam Maghett)
6. Night Train (J. Forrest) -Listen to Sample
7. Housewarming (H. McGhee)
8. Grandma (J. Hunter)
9. Strollin' The Drag (M. Sweetman)
10. Crazy House (Sweetman/Morgan/Sarli/Buck)
11. Harlem Nocturne (E. Hagen)
12. Tyrone's Night Out (J Morgan)
Dirty, lowdown Texas-style blues are the meaty menu served around Austin by tenorman Sweetman. A strip-joint bump-and-grind, get-down rhythm-and-blues sound is his stock in trade, from the first to the last greasy note. Little is left to the imagination, but Sweetman gives a lot in return. He and the Kings are sassy and strutting, slow and sultry, greasy and grinding, fiery and funky. Hide your grandmother's hearing aid when this one goes on the disc player. -Patricia Myers
The lights are dim red and blue, but even if they were bright tungsten lamps, they still wouldn't cut through smoke so thick it's discolored the drab walls. Up on the stage, a weather-beaten-looking woman wearing a feather boa, a peacock tattoo and nothing else gyrates half-heartedly, slithering around a pole. A big guy with Bo Diddley sunglasses on sits at the bar with an unlit cigar. He hasn't moved in months. The liquor is watered down before it even hits the ice in the glass. And the leader of the house band in this eternally-unchanging, open-every-night den of iniquity? It's Austin saxophonist Sweetman, purring sleazy, down-home blues out of his sax. This is the real bump-and-grind stuff, taking cues from slinky, early instrumental R&B of King Curtis, Ike Quebec, Gene Ammons and after-hours organ trios of yore. Ambience, heart, groove call it what you will, but it oozes from every note played by Sweetman and his mates. Featuring alumni of such honky-tonk hell raisers as the Fabulous Thunderbirds, John Mooney and Evan John's H-Bombs, Sweetman's cast of characters play like they're trapped in the life described above and have no desire to leave. Sweetman himself got his chops on the Baltimore bar circuit, then paid dues playing with Luther "Guitar" Johnson and Texas bluesman Buddy Ace. Listening to the CD, you can picture the tangled Christmas lights, the tattered instrument cases, the scuffed and stitched boots of the musicians. Check their version of Harlem Nocturne, which turns the sax staple into a quasi-surf boogaloo, or Tyrone's Night Out, Jest Smoochin' and the title track. While the patrons lean and slouch at their tables and nurse their watery drinks, the band kicks off another set with a late-'50s R&B nugget, Housewarming. Outside the neon blinks like a beacon luring lost souls in from the night. -James Lien
Sweetman's Southside Groove Kings are "proudly filthy sounding" this is the kind of band you'd hear in a sleazy back-alley dive, and the sound of this disc brings all of that heady atmosphere into your listening room. This is the band that I've searched for in a hundred bars and never found. (Yes, that was research, darlin'.) Sweetman has a nasty tenor sound, normally playing in that roughed-up King Curtis style, but he can play as sweet as Coleman Hawkins when he has a mind to, as on the title song. The sound stage is totally believable, setting the group in a somewhat cramped acoustic that seems appropriate. The dynamic shadings are impressive, and, even when the band flatout cooks, the sound remains articulate and focused. We're talking the aural equivalent of barbecue here: saturated with smoke, sweet and tangy just being in the same room with it will get you greasy. And if you ever need to start a party, all you have to do is put Austin Backalley Blue on the box it could corrupt a bishop. -from the column QuarterNotes by Wes Phillips
If you dig the blues, and dig em hot, get this album. Even if you aren't into the blues or jazz, but are curious what it's all about, get this CD. Self-described as sleazy sax, it is hypnotic and jagged — playfully rollickin' on the faster tunes and downright sexy on the slower ones.
The blues of Sweetman and his South Side Groove Kings are perfectly recreated here, mastered live to two-track analog tape, and then digitized on a custom A/D converter at 5,645,000 samples per second. There's no hyped-up production, no mixing board, filtering, compression overdubbing, or multitracking. It's just the blues played so hot your eyes will water from the smoke.
Close your eyes, open your ears, and let the first track Jest Smoochin' ooze from your speakers and up the pace with Zipperlips. More than just music, the fun of Austin Backalley Blue is that it creates an atmosphere; the better your system, the better the sensation.
Even if you don't like the blues, this CD is great for evaluating your system. Sit in your car and listen carefully, and it'll transport you to a small blues club. The down-home funky twang of Night Train is a standout, as are Grandma and Crazy House, which rip and roll faster than any grandma I ever saw. Admittedly, I prefer the faster tracks, but Strollin the Drag is a fun, sultry strut that conjures up mental images of hot nights, cold beer, and good times. -CT