July 15, 2017
JEFF DALE & JEFF STONE
The Southside Lives
Pro Sho Bidness Records
Jeff Dale & Jeff Stone Southside Lives CD
By Robin Zimmerman
The “Great Migration” might have fueled the rise of electrified blues but the influx of Southern blacks into Chicago also highlighted the city’s abysmal record on race relations. Often known as the most segregated city in America, Chicago’s new citizens were relegated to substandard housing on the South and West sides.
When blacks did try to move to a better part of the city, unscrupulous realtors stoked the fears of Chicago’s white citizenry with strong-arm tactics and threats. This practice of “panic peddling” was at the root of rapidly changing demographics in many neighborhoods.
Such was the case with the Southeast Side neighborhood of Jeffery Manor. Up until the late Sixties, it was a tight-knit, primarily Jewish enclave. It was the sort of place where folks usually kept their doors unlocked—until the community was rocked by Richard Speck’s brutal murder of eight student nurses near Luella Elementary School in 1966.
While many of the students at Luella thought they’d be attending Bowen High School together, it was not meant to be. When the block busters barnstormed into Jeffery Manor, home owners sold quickly. They slipped quietly into the night and off to Skokie, the North Shore and other far-flung places.
This abrupt departure from close friends and familiar places left a deep hole in the soul and psyche of many kids from Jeffery Manor—and it might be one of the reasons why several former residents got into the blues. The roster ranges from local impresario Lynn Orman Weiss and award-winning harp player Jeff Stone to highly lauded songwriter and slide guitarist, Jeff Dale.
Now, Dale has given voice to this angst with his new release, The Southside Lives. The title track tells of his world changing the day his family moved. He goes on with, “I was jumped by circumstances and I’m still learning to forgive.” But, in a nod to the power of his early adolescent connections, he sings “You can take the boy out of the Southside, but inside the Southside lives.”
Dale is not alone in paying homage to his old ‘hood. He has enlisted childhood pal and harmonica virtuoso, Jeff Stone to accompany him. Dale said that The Southside Lives is a CD that he could have only made with Stone and this is apparent from the get-go. With Stone’s mournful harp backing up Dale’s tale of adolescent upheaval, it’s obvious that these two are on same musical page -- with many of the same childhood memories.
The Southside Lives, which Dale produced, also serves as a touching tribute to Dale’s mentor and friend, David “Honeyboy” Edwards. Dale credits Edwards with rekindling his dedication to the blues after a long hiatus.
Since Edwards’ passing in 2011, Dale has been vigilant about keeping his memory alive. He recently produced a film, plus a DVD and CD, entitled, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, I’m Gonna Tell You Somethin’ That I Know: Live at the G Spot, which captured Edwards’ last live performance in Southern California, along with detailed memories of the night Robert Johnson died, tales of Charlie Patton and other intriguing stories.
The opening track on The Southside Lives is a synopsis of Edwards’ colorful life as an itinerant traveler and blues trailblazer. On “Honeyboy’s Story,” Dale demonstrates a deft touch at turning a phrase as he charmingly sums up everything from Honeyboy’s brushes with the law to his move to “sweet home Chicago.”
Dale picked up more than interesting anecdotes during his time with Honeyboy Edwards; “Honeyboy’s Story” also highlights Dale’s mastery of old-school Delta blues. With fellow Southsider Stone blowing some sweet syncopated harp, it’s apparent that these Jeffery Manor guys have been hanging out with blues players from all sides of town—and every part of the country, too!
The nice interplay between Dale and Stone continues in a humorous way with “Rooster.” Here, Dale contemplates “making rooster stew” after bellyaching about a bird waking him up at 4 a.m. -- in Chicago, no less. Stone, who recently moved back to the Windy City, showcases the harmonica chops that garnered a WC Handy Award during his tenure with the Zac Harmon Band.
After battling the urban rooster, it’s back to a Delta groove in both “Hooked Up to a Plow” and “The Old Blues Hotel.” Dale, who composed all the songs on the CD, continues to come up with clever lyrical twists punctuated by his signature, spoken-word style delivery. Wendysue Rosloff turns in some nice drum work on this and several other tracks.
While the “white flight” that took place in the late-Sixties might have caused some to harbor negative racial attitudes, Dale has taken the high road on his long journey from Jeffery Manor. In “The Dream,” he sings about “freedom and justice is the cure for my headache,” but “just needs to see them when I am awake.”
Whether it’s completely anecdotal or not, Dale delves into the universal themes of how lost loves, job loss and other factors can weigh on a person’s psyche in “The First Time I Met the Blues.” He shifts his tone on “The Bus Broke Down” and shows how a simple thing like an old broken down vehicle can be one’s ticket to misery.
“Tight Ass Mama,” follows a similar path as Dale wails about his lady unwilling to loan him money for fear that he might leave her. While “tight” might be the theme of this tune, the guitar and harp work on this track is extremely fluid and very satisfying. Pat Ciliberto plays a strong bass on this track and many others.
Dale doesn’t shy away from tackling extremely sensitive subjects either. On “Mud on My Shoes,” he strikes a chord with anyone who has lost a parent and leaves the cemetery knowing that “their rock has gone.”
The Southside Lives was funded via a Kickstarter program where Dale promised patrons “a new batch of my original tunes in a back-porch blues style.” While he and Stone might have traveled separate musical paths, it’s very gratifying to hear them come full circle and renew a blues connection that stretches back to third grade. On The Southside Lives, Jeff Dale offers a master class in the art of infusing bare bones blues with modern-day lyrics.
For info or to buy the CD, visit: www.jeffdaleblues.com or
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