With his excellent band The Chain Smokin 'Altar Boys brings Reverend Raven from Milwaukee, Wisconsin traditional blues, mainly consisting of covers. On this live recording, recorded in the famous "Blues On Grand" club in Des Moines, he had the help of harmonica-ace Madison Slim, including a member of Sam Lay's Blues Band, Legendary Bluesband and Jimmy Rodgers' Band. This here is the focus on his game sharp blue and The Reverend calls it Madison's CD, but of course to his West Side Chicago guitar style strongly present. Andre Maritato played bass that night in March 2002 and was the drummer Kid Panosh. Madison Slim brings plenty of homage to the masters of the harmonica are examples Slim Harpo and Rice Miller aka Sonny Boy Williamson. Five and half hours drive by a heavy snow storm leaves the gentlemen do not prevent a beauty of a set down to, and with Bernard Allison and the Lamont Cranston Band, they sell that night the Blues on Grand on stilts. They are a pure bluesband and what you can expect is that and nothing else. "We do not play Mustang Sally" says the Reverend. No, what they bring is the blues with a mix of Texas and Chicago blues that makes us think of Little Charlie & The Night Cats, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Paul Butterfield and especially Big Walter Horton, through Madison. Reverend Raven is an impressive man, his stature and voice "is" on a stage, and immediately trekk attention. His voice seems made for the blues. Songs including Freddy King, Magic Sam and Albert Collins brings with it an incredible convenience and flexibility. That he gets the help of Madison Slim is the live CD only impressive, because it occasionally takes the microphone and provides for a "double treat". His live performance where he during his harmonica solos double plooit and all curves lie to the full power behind his harp place is pure "blues body language" so to speak. If you set multiple Slim Harpo and Howlin Wolf covers heard you can not admit more than that, despite the snow storm to toeging very hot there in Des Moines. The blues and nothin 'but the blues, 100%. If the Reverend Raven preaches the blues' s always a high!

The blues resource-rich Alligator belt that extends between Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis is alive with working blues units that are keeping the flame stoked. Perhaps foremost is the blues shouter, Reverend Raven. His latest release features harp legend Madison Slim and a tight band of roadhouse veterans.

From the opening bouncer 'I'm Your Honeyboy', a loping shuffle and Raven original that propels the listener into this collection of blues gems, the interplay between the Rev and Slim is nothing short of breathtaking. With a stash of a thousand stage hours to draw from, the band creates a synergy of dynamics and outstanding ensemble playing that are the hallmarks of all great blues bands.

Reverend Raven has completed the transition from sideman to commanding bandleader by being a student of the art form. His prodigious guitar vocabulary quotes the greats while retaining the excitement of spontaneous combustion. Clean tone dripping with reverb inside impeccable phrasing, combined with the fruits of years as a sideman - tasty rhythm comps and fills - give the Rev a perfect foil for Madison Slim's muscular tone and soulful licks.

Madison Slim is the treasured connection to the Chicago blues masters having literally slept on the couches of Jimmy Rogers, Lowell Fulson and Carrie and Lurrie Bell. He was often the only white face in the south-side blues clubs during the 60's and the 70's. Slim's ability to step on the gas pedal is a testament to years on the road with the best blues performers in the world.

Of course, it's all about the groove. With sparkplug Spencer Panosh driving and swinging the shuffles and Westside beats with a clock-like precision, tunes like 'Bye Bye Baby' and 'In the Open' really jump.

Whether breathing life into Howlin' Wolfs 'Who's Been Talkin' or playing greasy harp on Slim Harpo's 'Got Love if You Want It', Madison Slim is in top form. For a true reading of the original electrified delta-style guitar, listen to Raven's take on Muddy Water's 'Sweet Man' in which Slim's blues whistle calls the hellhounds in for supper. Well-placed and tasteful vibrato guitar fill 'The Backscratcher' and the Westside vibe of the Rev's 'Bee Hive Baby' are as authentic as any white boys can get. The live CD is musically seamless and showcases the essence of why the blues is still alive.

With clarity of mission and a deep emotion born of a great respect for the form, the Reverend Raven's sermon should bring new converts to the church we call Chicago Blues and, the circle shall be unbroken. Amen.

Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin¹ Altar Boys captured a smoking club set of uptempo blues numbers and put it on his own label. Most are well executed covers by names associated with the heyday of Chicago blues...Muddy Waters, Slim Harpo, Willie Dixon and other names from a little farther south, Howlin¹ Wolf and Frank Frost. The CD begins with a pair of Reverend Raven originals, I¹m your Honeyboy and Loving You. For the discriminating listener most of the covers are B sides and not the usual roadhouse fodder. Like the Raven says, ³we don¹t play Mustang Sally.² There¹s also another Reverend original, a fine tribute to Slim Harpo called Bee Hive Baby The Reverend handles guitar and vocals and Spencer Panosh and Andre Maritato, well traveled musicians themselves, are on drums and bass. The harmonica chores and a few vocals are taken by Madison Slim, a well known player with plenty of frequent flyer miles himself. They play like they¹ve spent plenty of time honing their craft in smoky dens of iniquity and next time you see them on their way to a local den you should check them out.

Two things drew me to this CD. I always dug the Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys handle, catholic grade school refugee that I am, and, I liked the work Madison Slim did back in the day with the Legendary Blues Band. To me, this screamed short cover, big buckets o’ beer Blues night at the local bar and, that’s a good thing. The music may be elemental and raw, but it’s in no way perfunctory played, there’s passion and wit to spare and therein lies its charm. The right Rev. unleashes rippin’ and a ringin’ guitar licks right out of the gate and keeps the energy level high throughout. This set called to mind the passion and fire of The Red Devils’ King King with a tad bit more polish as well as hard earned experience thrown in. This music requires commitment, it has to be played full out to work and these guys are more than up to the task. Good live Blues brings a smile to my lips when I’m there and this certainly does that, which is saying something hearing it on CD so far removed from the performance.

Reverend Raven is Chicago born and has that Windy City feel embedded in his DNA, Madison Slim sounds as though he couldn’t play a false note with a cocked pistol at his head and the rhythm section of bassist Andre Maritato and skin pounder Kid Panosh shake the foundation, rattle the rafters and roll it easy when called for. These four pieces make a heckuva racket and it’s a divine madness that they deliver. The song selection is fine and features solid Raven originals going toe to toe with covers of some of the best that the Electric Blues’ heyday had to offer from Muddy to the Wolf with some Freddie King and Slim Harpo thrown in for good measure. Things get started with the original “I’m Your Honeyboy,” sung by composer Raven with swagger and conviction. The opener sets a swinging pace before the band settles into a more traditional sounding Chi-Town groove that carries the proceedings from there on out. 

Madison Slim joins the fray with Harpo’s “Got Love If You Want It”. His husky voice and overblown harp give the proceedings a feeling of authenticity, the inescapable knowledge that this is someone who’s been there and done that. The interplay between Raven’s guitar and Slim’s harp is what makes this CD work. Freddie King’s “In The Open,” comes about half way through the set and the duo wails full out making a joyous noise and claiming this night all their own. Wolf’s “Louise,” is next with a mesmerizing rhythm that sucks the listener in for good. Everything that follows is gravy and worth the time to track down and make your own. Great stuff if you’re a fan of no holds barred barroom blues and, a good place to start if you wanna try some on for size.

A superb album of real Chicago blues style done by two of the best white performers of this kind of blues. We have The Reverend on vocals and guitar playing and Madison Slim blowing harp. Both sound really bright and give a faultless performing, perfectly backed by powerful drummer Spencer Panosh who has a hard convincing straight beat and Andre Maritato on bass who provides the rest of the band soundness and enough confidence, which gives as a result a highly recommended record. If you like and enjoy listenning to traditional fifties Chicago blues, do not hesitate and get a copy of this amazing ‘Live at Blues on Grand’. GREAT.

"This cd is by far the best one that I have listened to so far this year.

I give this cd , Reverend Raven Featuring Madison Slim "Live At The Blues On Grand" Reverend Raven Website,my highest rating of (7) harps and is my favorite cd so far this year.I give The Reverend Raven my "Muddy Waters Torch Carrier Award" and to Madison Slim my coveted "Nasty harp Award " for being so NASTY SOUNDING,oh yeah!!"

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