Catfish Keith, Still I Long to Roam

Catfish Keith, Still I Long to Roam

Catfish lays down a foot stomping groove. One of the most exciting guitarists of any genre.
Acoustic Guitar Magazine

Catfish Keith, guitarist and exponent of the blues extraordinaire, continues to delight and entertain us in his new album, his 21st, Still I Long to Roam. It’s another fine collection of reinterpreted classic blues songs and originals, the latter sounding every bit as classic and authentic as the others.

His 2021 album Land of the Sky won a Blues Blast Music Awards for Best Acoustic Album, was nominated for a Blues Music Award and considered for a Grammy nomination. Down at the Crossroads said it was “a hugely enjoyable collection of roots songs, with new life breathed into them by a master interpreter and jaw-droppingly good guitarist.” [Review here]

And really, Still I Long to Roam gives us thirteen more opportunities to enjoy more of the same. If you love blues music, if you love superb guitar playing, if you love hearing old songs brought to life through fresh interpretations, then this is an album you must hear. And all this infused with the usual infectious Catfish Keith sense of fun and joy.

It’s all in the percussive groove Catfish projects in his guitar work, along with his fine singing. You’ll hear perfectly executed picking, bending and sliding, along with some judiciously placed harmonics, as you think, how on earth does one man do that on one guitar? But that’s what we’ve got here, just one man and his guitar making sublime music and putting a big smile on the face of his listeners.

There are a couple of new Catfish songs in the collection – I’m A Wanderer and Cherry Red. I’m A Wanderer kicks the album off with some tasty slide work and nifty picking. Cherry Red, inspired by Skip James and Mance Lipscomb, is a lot of fun, featuring a little falsetto singing and those characteristic Catfish harmonics.  Both sound like they could be songs from the 1930s.

As for the reimagined blues songs, you’ll enjoy Mississippi John Hurt’s Louis Collins, Tommy Johnson’s Cool Drink of Water, and Professor Longhair’s Go to the Mardi Gras, amongst others.

There’s a great version of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s He’ll Understand (and Say Well Done), now transformed from a quite traditional organ gospel song to a rhythmic, guitar riff-driven march heaven-ward, played on Catfish’s National Reso-Phonic Baritone guitar. (btw, if you’re in the market for a National guitar, Catfish is your man – scoot along to his website for details).

Catfish also includes a song by Memphis guitarist, Frank Stokes. Stomp That Thing was first released in 1928 as a neatly picked country blues song. When Stokes played outdoors in Beale street, his songs were upbeat and lots of fun, music to dance to, as opposed to some type of melancholy blues. I’d guess not too many of us know Stokes’s music so it’s great to have it re-presented by Catfish Keith in this vibrant form. I could imagine this one goes down a storm live. [To check out Frank Stokes follow this link]

I enjoyed hearing Blind Willie Johnson’s When the War Was On, where we get treated to Catfish singing both Willie Johnson’s and his wife, Willie B. Johnson’s call and responses in the chorus. The song is Johnson’s response to the First World War, but it’s always timely to hear, not least right now, “Everybody wailed, when the war was on.” As Edwin Starr once sang, “War, what’s it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

Overall, though, this album is just a joyous celebration of American roots music, played by, let’s not make any bones about it, a master of his guitar craft. Get this album, savour Catfish’s performances, but go, spend some time checking out the original songs as well. There’ll be, I’m sure one or two artists you’re not familiar with, but you’ll enjoy getting to know. Catfish Keith does us a great service in highlighting these artists of yesteryear and their music.