Picks and Pans Review: Travelling Tracks

updated 04/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Roy Rogers and Norton Buffalo

More than some music, the blues are often defined as much by place as by performer—which is to say that more than miles separate electric big-city Chicago from rough-edged rural Mississippi, So where, stylistically, does that leave a pair of native-born Californians like slide guitarist Roy Rogers and blues harpist Norton Buffalo? Closer to country gristle than urban grit, it seems, but still in territory all their own.

Blues devotees know Rogers, 42, as a former sideman and present-day producer for John Lee Hooker. (Rogers's parents named him after the famous singing cowboy—they were fans.) Rock fans know Buffalo as an 18-year veteran of the Steve Miller Band. The pair first teamed up in the recording studio two years ago on an amiable, all-acoustic blues album tilled R&B. This time they go on the road, mixing concert tracks with studio cuts, and the result is an album with more bounce than a book of bad checks.

Apart from a few traditional numbers, most of the selections are originals. Despite one puckishly chauvinistic woman-done-me-wrong tune, there are no strained evocations of hard times on the cell block or bad days on the farm, just a spirited mix of souped-up slide guitar and blustery blues harmonica. Some folks may wish for more old-fashioned pain and woe, but to these Californians, at least, the best blues are cheerful-baby blues. Happily, the twinkle is contagious. (Blind Pig)

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