South By Southwest (Blue Track Records)

Nelsen Adelard is one of the more consistently underrated Southern California blues cats on the scene today. South By Southwest (Blue Track Records), his fifth album, continues his trend of first-rate blues delivered in "no nonsense" fashion.


Adelard, who plays guitar, piano and harmonica, is backed by James Slaughter (bass) and Greg Worley (drums) on most cuts. He's also joined by the West Coast Band ---John Duzik (bass), Ben Beckley (drums), Mikey Mo (lead guitar) and Mark Norris (sax).


The disc opens with an up-tempo live cut, "One More Mile To Go," performed in front of an enthusiastic audience, featuring some nice harp from Adelard on the James Cotton cover. The big band stays on for a rollicking remake of Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88"; this song can only be done justice if it's got a smokin' sax solo, and Norris is up to the task.


South By Southwest takes a decidedly downhome turn after the two live cuts, moving on to doing all original material with the trio. "I Ain't Gonna Miss LA" is a pleasant mid-tempo ditty which would sound good played on the back porch; one could easily imagine Randy Newman singing this song.


For anyone who's ever had a new home built that just wasn't right, "Contractor Blues" will strike a nerve with you. Adelard sings with such conviction that you wonder whether this mid-tempo blues is somewhat autobiographical. He also plays a pretty mean harp. Adelard sings, "I got doors that won't close ... and walls that leak ... made me so mad ... well I can't hardly speak ... hey Mr. Contractor ... I need a house that I can use ..."


Adelard shows off both his piano playing and acoustic guitar picking on the jazzy "Do What You Do" before heading back more into an electric blues vein with "Rock It Right." I especially like his bluesy guitar solo laid over top of a fine shuffle beat and Slaughter's walking bass line. Adelard shows off his versatility by also laying down good harp and piano solos.


"Can't Get Through To You" is a mournful slow blues that's got a fuller sound than some of the previous cuts. I'm thinking there's some uncredited accompaniment here. Regardless, they've got a nice blues thing going on.


The album ends with a lazy blues, "Sweet Home In McComb," a song that evokes memories of drinking mint juleps under a cypress tree (regardless of whether or not you've ever had that experience). Adelard plays some nice piano here.


Nelsen Adelard is a performer who deserves a wider audience. South By Southwest is just further proof that more blues fans need to be listening to his music.

Bill Mitchell