Danny Kalb: I'm Gonna Live the Life I Sing About

By: Sarah Hagerman

A mentoree of the great Dave Van Ronk, Danny Kalb first came to attention in the 1960s when he was kicking around the Greenwich Village folk and blues revival with a great cast of characters (Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, among others), and is best known for founding The Blues Project in 1965. A highly eclectic band that burned out by 1967 because of too many cooks stirring the musical pot, not to mention too many drugs, its ranks included Steve Katz and Al Kooper, and their immense influence, particularly on the jam band scene, is often overlooked. Kalb's career ducked out of the light since then, with relatively minimal studio output and long periods of silence. Occasional appearances on stage over the years for Blues Project reunions and more recent solo and trio group shows are coveted occasions. Although Danny Kalb's artistry and legacy as a guitarist is well respected, he seems somewhat destined to stay the stuff of whispered legend rather than household name.

I'm Gonna Live the Life I Sing About (Sojourn) is then the resounding voice of a blues guitar sage, netted from sessions recorded in 2006 and 2007, as well as other cuts stretching back to the late 1990s, with Kalb backed only by bass and drums on most tracks. The juicy, choice covers and three classic-sounding originals ("Gotta Get Goin' Again", "Crazy Girl" and the lilting "Lazy Afternoon") are all played with love and delivered straight up, no chasers. Opening two-shot of Billy Boy Arnold's "I Wish You Would" and a slinky acoustic take on Little Richard's "Slippin' and Slidin'" both come on strong, with the first twirling around on a toe-tapping, head-bobbing rhythm that's begging for a dance floor twitch. My personal favorite track, if I had to pick, is a cover of Elizabeth Cotten's "Shake Sugaree." Lovely and harmonica-steeped, it reels out over imaginary end credits. Throughout the album, Kalb's matter-of-fact voice, weathered by life's joys and sorrows, compliments the undiluted aesthetic. Switching between acoustic and electric guitars, his playing is lustrous and full of life and breath, but never slick or fussy. The notes don't need to beg for attention. Kalb instead infuses each one with an inner glow and you know you are hearing the real, honest deal as you listen to him move.

JamBase | Back Road Heaven
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[Published on: 3/30/09]

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