Billy Ray Charles
Baton Rouge, Louisiana's Burton Gaar broke into the music industry playing bass for Blues great Slim Harpo and has never looked back. The year was 1959, and Gaar was only 16-years-old. He has gone on to play in R&B band the Boogie Kings, as well as alongside the great Percy Sledge and Zydeco kingpin Rockin' Sydney Simien. Burton Gaar has also fronted his own bands, as well as recorded solo records - his debut being 1995's Still Singing The Blues. Despite the fact that Gaar made music for almost four decades, he has 450 songs in his catalog (he has written in excess of 2000 songs during his musical career), and started recording his songs in the mid 1970's, he didn't record a solo album of his own until 1991, when the Louisiana Cajun influenced "Still Singing the Blues" was issued with his brother John Gaar on guitar and the Mud Kats. The power and honesty of his unmistakable voice, combined with the meaningful lyric content of his songs, powerful grooves, and clever arrangements, authenticates Gaar's unique brand of Louisiana blues. In 2000 Black & Tan put out "One Hundred Pounds Of Trouble" and two further acclaimed LPs followed until Gaar's 2011 death.
Burton Gaar & The Mud Kats "Still Singing The Blues" (Lanor 1995)
1. Midnight's Coming
"One Hundred Pounds Of Trouble" (Black & Tan 2000)
1 One Hundred Pounds Of Trouble 3:53
"Mighty Long Road" (Louisiana Red Hot 2000)
***1/2 Louisiana blueser Burton's third disc of hard electric blues and a smidge o' soul. This isn't your typical blues album of histrionic guitar masterbation and interminible jamming. No, this is blues with style, songs and spirit. Then again there is some ace playing her bu organist Johnny Neel, bassist Randy Coleman, guitarist Shane Therlot, harpist Tom Gonzalez and saxologist Marty Ojeda. Commencing with a booty shakin' "Bad Motor Scooter", throaty-voiced Burton takes us down the streets of Baton Rouge with 13 "pushy" tracks. He explains that this means "too spicy" in the liner notes. But truthfully this gumbeaux ("gumbo" for us Northerners) is "just right" like the little bear's pourage to use another simile. This bountiful buffet (okay, I can't stop with the food references...I must hungry) has a lot of well-oiled dishes like pounding blues shuffles ("Homewrecker", "Low Down Blues"), funky N'Awlins zydeco blues ("Big Mama Gumbeaux"), soul balladry ("Willingly", "Truth Is") & more. The band is as tight as a school marm's bun and the production crisp but what especially makes this platter tasty is Gaar's voice. Soulful, Cajun-flavored and full of emotion. This cat can serve up anything. Here's to hoping for the next course.
"Home Of The Blues" (Sound Venture 2003)
**** Who said "white boys can't sing the blues with soul?". That fool never heard cats like Tad Robinson, Darrell Nullisch and Mr. Burton Gaar, singer on this terrific blues CD called "Home Of The Blues". I had first heard of Gaar while doing a search of "similar artists" to Albert King on some website. I saw his name but didn't check him out. My loss indeed. Louisiana native Gaar formerly played bass and sang with Percy Sledge and Zydeco Legend Rocking Sidney. He even jammed with Slim Harpo when he was only 14. "Home" displays his powerful, hearty vocals on 12 tracks of hard electric blues blessed by the spirit of Baton Rouge. As far as the Albert King reference earlier, the only track that recalls that titan is the muscular title track that opens the disc- a bottom heavy midtempo blues with a tensely restrained vocal and some icy organ courtesy of Johnny Neel (formerly of the Allman Brothers and Govt. Mule). Gaar is the star here but he's got some ace muscians aiding him. In addition to Neel, Tim Gonzales plays harmonica, Danny Hamblin & Shane Theriot (of the Neville Brothers Band) share guitar chores, bass by Randy Coleman, skins by Floyd Saizon, and Horns by Marty Ojeda, Steve Herman, Tom McGinley and Dennis Taylor. Gonzales impresses on the shuffle "Blow Wine Blow". The horns are gorgeous on "Hole In My Heart", a melodious number with a shuffle-bumpin' rhythm. Garr shows the deep soul in his voice on "Hall Of Fame" and "Rainbow", two slow aching ballads. The pitch-perfect harmony vocals on the latter makes me think of a bluesy Eagles song. Meanwhile, "Stone Cold Blues" combines honky-tonk with N'Awlins and some Memphis horns! That Louisiana flavor is front and center on "I Wonder" stamped by some jazz piano by Neel. As if that wasn't enough diversity Gaar and band head Texas-ward with a snappy jump blues called "Wonderland". Lyrically, the closing "Still Singing The Blues" shows that material possessions don't protect you from the blues. There's not a throwaway song or performance anywhere, and that's remarkable considering these are mostly originals written by Gaar and George Hollingshead. Gaar also produced this high fidelity gem.