Gary BB Coleman
Gary B.B. Coleman
Born 1947 in Paris, Texas. As hinted at by the "B.B." moniker added to his name Coleman was an admirer of B.B. King, but more so Albert King (who he mostly resembled as a guitar player) and of course Freddie King. When he was 15, he was working with Freddie King and later supported Lightnin' Hopkins and formed his own band, which played around Texas. Gary also began booking blues musicians into clubs in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. He continued to play gigs and book concerts for nearly two decades. In 1985, he formed Mr. B's Records, his own independent label. Coleman released his debut album, "Nothin' But The Blues" the following year. The album was popular and gained the attention of Ichiban Records, who signed Coleman and re-released the record in 1987, which managed a #74 placing on Billboard's R & B Albums chart. A fruitful relationship ensued with the label. In addition to his own records he began producing albums for a number of other artists, as well as writing songs for other musicians and acting as an A&R scout for Ichiban. Between 1988 and 1992, he released six records and produced another 30. Some of his productions include albums by Little Johnny Taylor, Blues Boy Willie, Chick Willis, Vernon Garrett and Buster Benton. Coleman died in 1994.
"Nothin' But The Blues" (Ichiban 1987)
1.Stealing Your Love
**1/2 Originally released in 1985 on his own label, "Nothin' But The Blues", the album spread via word-of-mouth until Ichiban picked it up and re-released it. A confident set of laidback blues revealing Coleman to be a disciple of the three Kings (B.B., Albert & Freddie). It's a mix of adequate covers ("One-Eyed Woman") and Coleman originals (the instrumental "Stumble", "Stealin' Your Love Tonight"). Not remarkable but promising.
"If You Can Beat Me Rockin'" (Ichiban 1988)
1. Watch Where You
***The derivative the title cut is a top-notch blues shuffle (no relation to the Laura Lee song of the same name) but one of the best cuts is Coleman's surprising cover of George Harrison's "Cloud Nine". Coleman recognized at it's surface the song's a cool, laidback blues groove. There's also a cover of Albert King's "If The Washing Don't get You (The Rinsing Sure Will)" giving Coleman a chance to show off his guitar prowess. Borrowing the storyline from the Kinks' "Lola", Gary answers Clarence Carter's "Strokin" with the cautionary "Watch Where You Stroke". See, Gary ends up with a "woman" that had something in common with himself but it was "twice as big" as his own. Showing some versatility he also does a undeniably soulful version of Bobby Bland's classic "St James Infirmary".
"One Night Stand" (Ichiban 1989)
1. Baby Scratch My
***1/2 This set opens with a faithful reading of Slim Harpo's "Baby Scratch My Back" with Coleman having fun with his guitar. On track two, the smoldering soul blues "I Wrote This Song For You", captures the Memphis soul-driven blues of Albert King circa 1972-1974. Coleman is truly underrated as a guitarist and his Albertisms here are terrific. "I Just Can't Lose These Blues" parallels that track's muscular rhythm and "I Fell In Love On A One Night Stand", and Bobby Bland's "I'll Take Care Of You" are convincing slow blues numbers. Less successful are takes on "As The Years Go Passing By" and Freddie King's "Going Down".
"Dancin' My Blues Away" (Ichiban 1990)
1.Word of Warning
***1/2 More no nonsense modern soul blues from Coleman featuring the cookin' "I Gotta Play The Blues For You" with a kinetic rhythm and stinging Albert King-blessed blues guitar. I keep mentioning Albert 'cuz fans of that King's style will most delight in Coleman's thang. Both "A Word Of Warning" and "Think Before You Act" sound like tailor made Albert grooves. Coleman also does a snazzy lounge blues with "Maybe Love Wasn't Meant For Me".
"Romance Without Finance Is A Nuisance" (Ichiban 1991)
1. She Ain't Ugly (She
Just Don't Look Like Nobody Else)
****1/2 Coleman's best album displays all his strengths. The disc opens with typical humor on "She Ain't Ugly (She Just Don't Look Like Nobody Else)" and it's nice to know she "ain't no monkey 'cuz she's got feets just like alligator shoes". Of course while at the market to buy some tuna she was "picked up by the zoo". Gary don't care what you think about her "'cuz the little girl got somethin' I sure can use". But then he can brood like Bobby "Blue" Bland on the somber, minor-keyed "Dealin' From The Bottom Of The Deck". Humor wins out again however on "Food Stamp Annie", aka, "Ms. Welfare Queen", about a gal who gets 3 or 4 checks under different names. On the Staxy soul blues of the title cut Coleman gets flack from his woman because he's "a little financially embarrassed". She tells him "You can't buy me a hotdog and you wanna take me out to dine?!?". All joking aside this is a solid modern blues record.
"The Best Of Gary B.B. Coleman" (Ichiban 1991)
1. One Eyed Woman
*** The first of three "best ofs" collects some of Coleman's finest from 3 his first 5 Ichiban records. For some reason nothing from "Nothin' But The Blues" is included and "Romance Without Finance" was released the same year as this compilation. Nevertheless there's Coleman goodies like "Cloud Nine", "Watch Where You Stroke", "I Fell In Love On A One Night Stand" and "If You Can Beat Me Rockin'". There's also two holiday cuts not available on his regular discs ("Merry Christmas baby", "Christmas Blues"). There's too many good cuts missing to consider this definitive.
"Too Much Weekend" (Ichiban 1992)
1. Too Much
*** Coleman's last Ichiban seems to have aged rather well- used copies selling for three times that of a new LP. Despite a couple routine covers ("The Sky is Crying", "Crosscut Saw") there's the somewhat gratuitously nasty "Uncle Bud", the hungover title cut and a brilliantly sarcastic reading of Guy Drake's "Welfare Cadillac" with Jerry 'Boogie' McCain on mouth harp. Two instrumentals ("Neckbone", "The Elk Slide") feel like filler but are quite enjoyable nonetheless.
"Cocaine Annie" (Icehouse, Priority 1994,1996)
1. Little Bit of
Your Gravy-Run All over My Plate
*** Final record from Coleman is a typical set of electric blues covers with a dollop of comedy. Two comically-titled shuffles stand out: "A Little Bit Of Your Gravy (Runs All Over My Plate)" & "My Old Cow is Sick So Leave Your Bull At Home". "Food Stamp Annie" pops up again on "Cocaine Annie", which robs the swingin' melody from "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" and "I'm Gonna Find Her" is a pure B.B. King blues song written by Coleman. There's also two faithful Albert King covers "Personal Manager" & "Answer To The Laundromat Blues".
"Retrospectives" (Ichiban 1998)
1. Sky Is Crying,
***1/2 Second compilation of Coleman's Ichiban material shares a few songs with the first ("If You Can Beat Me Rockin", "St James Infirmary", "I Fell In Love On A One Night Stand") but is somewhat of a supplement as this contains tracks from 1991's "Romance With Finance Is A Nuisance" and 1992's "Too Much Weekend" that the previous disc didn't.
"American Roots: Blues" (Ichiban/Rykodisc 2002)
1. I Wrote This
Song For You
**** Gary B.B. Coleman wore his influences proudly on his sleeve- his guitar playing is a wonderful mix of Albert, Freddie & BB Kingisms with a touch of originality. His style is closer to Albert in song and production- bass heavy midtempo numbers with lots of guitar soloing. There have been two compilations released on Coleman already (they even used the same album cover!) but "American Roots: Blues" ,the third, is the better of the three. The modern electric blues collection has the confident shuffle "If You Can Beat Me Rockin' (You Can Have My Chair)", the humorous answer song to Clarence Carter's "Strokin'" called "Watch Where You Stroke" that has a storyline much like the Kinks' "Lola". Another big plus is the track "Food Stamp Annie" is mislabled- the song is actually the terrific slow blues "Dealin' From The Bottom Of The Deck". Even a smidge of jazzy blues are even here via "Maybe Love Wasn't Meant For Me". The hyper-funky blues of "I Gotta Play The Blues For You" is irresistible. Gary BB Coleman was surely underrated and fans of the three "Kings" (Albert, B.B. & Freddie) will surely dig this set. But a correct "Best Of Gary B.B. Coleman" remains at large.