Hard on the heels of a “best of” collection, Jack pays homage to the masters and Checkmate is one stomping, roaring collection. Otis Rush is represented by three songs; Howlin’ Wolf, three; Elmore James, two and Robert Johnson, two. We also get some early BB, Blind Willie McTell and Aretha Franklin. While they stick fairly close to the originals, Jack and the band don’t try to imitate any of the masters, they perform these songs as the Jack de Keyzer Band. The huge and unexpected success of The Rolling Stones’ Blue And Lonesome may well have been the impetus for this project and if it leads to more albums like this, I say bring them on. Just listen to Jack whoop and holler on Elmore’s “Talk To Me Baby” as he roars away on slide. “Stranger Blues” is not far behind, a little echo adding to the excitement. The twin guitar attack on Jack’s new arrangement of “Broke Down Engine Blues” will make you sit bolt upright. Otis Rush has always been a favourite of Jack’s and “All Your Love (I Miss Loving)”, “Double Trouble” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby” make for perfect modern versions of these classics. The same applies to the Wolf, with “Howlin’ For My Darlin’”, “Evil (Is Going On) and “I Ain’t Superstitious” showing what years of playing can accomplish. On the CD jacket, Jack lists guitar before vocals but he pulls out all the stops to sing his version of ”Do Right Woman”, simply a tour de force! Keyboard man Joel Visentin picks up his trombone to join Richard Thornton on sax for the horn parts. BB’s “Days Of Old” is a fairly obscure Kent single from 1958 but it suits this band just fine. RJ is saved for the end, a storming “Walking Blues”, a la Paul Butterfield and a gorgeous solo acoustic “Come On In My Kitchen”, with 78rpm noises running underneath. Alan Duffy on bass and Rick Donaldson on drums are on the money throughout. Before the success of the Stones, an album like this would have been unthinkable, now we can hear a band at its peak playing songs they grew up on and still love. They’ll be doing just that at Hugh’s Room Live on March 24th, bring your dancing shoes.

March 2018 - Sue Foley
March 2018 - Suzie Vinnick