Woodbrain: Shake 'Em on Down


Shake 'Em on Down




Swimming in Turpentine (Yellow Dog Records 1678)

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Joe McMurrian (electric guitar, vocals),

Jason Honl (bass), Jimi Bott (drums, percussion), David Lipkind (harmonica, background vocals)


Composed by Booker White


Recorded: Oregon City, Oregon, January 2009


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

When Booker Washington ('Bukka') White had a hit with this song in 1937, it immediately inspired a host of imitations. Blues fans soon were hearing recordings, by an assortment of artists, with names such as "Break ‘Em on Down” or “Ride ‘Em on Down” or “Truck ‘Em on Down.” The craze didn't quite last until "Waltz 'Em on Down" or "Polka 'Em on Down," but if you added up all the royalties White lost by not controlling the copyrights of all the knock-offs, it must have amounted to a pretty Depression-era penny. So it is all the more unfortunate that this recording attributes the tune to Joe McMurrian (and due to some publishing mix-up on the booklet puts down White as the composer of another song on the CD).

Mistaken identities aside, White would have enjoyed this lava hot version of his most popular song. He never cared much for being a traditional blues artist, and was always looking to take his music into the future. And that is just what the high energy Portland band Woodbrain does in this track from their impressive debut on Yellow Dog Records. Woodbrain (formerly the Joe McMurrian Quartet) is one of the best electric blues bands on the scene. They play loose and tight. The energy level starts out a fever pitch and never lets up—and the band brings in just enough of a rock flavor to appeal to younger fans without losing the Delta edginess of their music. Think of Woodbrain as the North Mississippi Allstars of the Pacific Northwest. Certainly this band has enough dynamite in its sound to blow up a small bridge. With the right exposure, Woodbrain could attract a sizable audience.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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