by Jim White

I want to start getting back to some new CDs I got recently from Earwig Records, a fine little blues label run My Michael Frank, harp player, manger of Honeyboy Edwards and Burgh native. First up is one by Tim Woods, "The Blues Sessions." Woods is from Irwin (yes, our Irwin), and I'm not sure how I've missed seeing this fine picker and singer of great old blues, but I have. My loss. But at least now I have this very enjoyable CD. It's called "Blues Sessions" because it was put together in a series of studio sessions in Chicago, Atlanta, Savannah and Clarksdale, Miss., and more importantly, because it draws on some really great old blues music. Woods has put together an amazing set of tracks featuring some classic and some not-so-classic blues, in which displays serious guitar chops (he plays and picks with his thumb, allowing him to play lead and rhythm), and a nice gritty voice for the music he's selected. It's not enough that Woods sounds like he found Chicago and the Delta somewhere in the depths of Irwin, but he's surrounded here by musicians who bring a powerful blues history to the music. Let's start with David "Honeyboy Edwards, who shares guitar and vocal duties with Woods on several cuts, including Honeyboy's classic "Bad Whiskey & Cocaine." Then add the excellent piano of Allan Batts and Aaron Moore, fine guitar from Big Jack Johnson, John Primer, Bobby Lee Rodgers and Eric Noden, plus Lee Williams and Kenny Smith on drums, Michael Frank on harp -- and plus many other musicians who turn this project of Woods into a mini-old-time blues festival. This is Woods' first CD, and he deserves a lot of credit as a co-producer for putting together such an excellent package. There are mini-bios of the contributing artists, session photos and a little of Woods' personal history and his effort on this album. -- all the trappings that you might not exprect to find on a first effort. And then there's the big deal -- the music. Woods hasn't created anything brand new here, but he takes classic blues as a starting point and brings us a very fine set of great old blues as seen through his own passion and instinctual feel for the music. Here are just some of the tracks he's chosen: "Deep Ellum Blues," "Do the Do," "Castle Rock Boogie," "Spoonful," "Clarksdale Boogie," and "Wind Howlin' Blues." Here's a sample of Woods on "Deep Ellum Blues." All this got started, Tim says, when he first saw an article about Edwards and decided to look further. He said that Ernie Hawkins told him that Honeyboy was in Chicago, and that Michael Frank was his manager. Woods said that he called Frank, they hit on their Burgh connection, and it all flowed from that. The CD represents not only good music, but Woods personal journey into the blues. A nice story.