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Inter-Review  By: Kyle Christen

Not ever having been to Memphis for the annual IBC challenges, I can't imagine how it must be, so much talent from everywhere, so little time to try to catch all the performers, and tough to choose winners. On the other hand, how great for blues fans from one region getting to experience musicians from all other parts of the country!

Such was the case this year as Blue Monday Monthly personnel in attendance found a gem from the West Coast. Making it to the Semi-Finals, and representing the Blues Lovers United of San Diego was Fuzzy and the Blues Band!

Their latest CD, "Fuzzy - The Blues", was released in October 2017, and is on the nomination board for Best Blues Album of 2018 at the upcoming San Diego Music Awards. Once the IBC was all said and done, Hammer touched base with this band, who is doing their part to keep the blues alive in Southern California. I'm not sure that's an easy undertaking in such a large metro area, but because of their immense talent and dedication, we decided to tell you about this disc. Lenny "Fuzzy" Rankins is a Cleveland native, who first made his way to NY, then bolted for SoCal in 1990, where he's been writing, recording and performing da blues ever since.

"Fuzzy - The Blues" is a collection of 14 songs, which includes mostly original music, all written by Fuzzy, plus a few covers thrown in for good measure. The first cut is "Happy Man", a rollin' blues number about a guy trying to live by the code of "Happy Wife, Happy Life." This one bounces along greatly and is a foretaste of what else is coming. Another original is "Medication." This one is right up my alley, sounding like traditional Chicago-style blues from about 50 years ago, with all of us packed into a small and smoky backstreet club on the West side. "Thinking For Yourself" is a rockin' song, oh-so danceable, and the band really cooks it on this one. The bass player on this CD is Cecil McBee, Jr., and it was his job to keep up with Fuzzy's guitar. Thankfully for the listeners, he did! One of the first covers undertaken is "The Thrill Is Gone", and Fuzzy lights it up, not with a carbon copy, but his own version. Not bad at all...actually damn good! Just my opinion, but if BB heard this, I think he'd say "Well done, my son!" The next tune, "Shut Your Mouth", is a slower take, with some really nice guitar by Fuzzy, and inspired vocals that make this one another real deal. "Slippin' Through Your Town" is a tune featuring some great keyboard work by Ms. Hindy Bare. The organ underlays she provides really makes this some good stuff, along with more cool bass playing by Cecil, and also from both of them throughout the disc.

Hats off to Steve Wetherbee, who recorded, mixed, and mastered this one at his own Golden Track Studios, which, I'm told, is the place to lay down music in San Diego. This Grammy nominated producer has worked with some heavy hitters in his 30+ year career, and it shows. Capturing the "live" sound of a band doesn't just happen, and seemingly only a few pull it off, but he certainly did. This is like listening to a piece of glass, every vocal and instrument is clear and crisp, just like you're sitting in the front row, with nothing muffled. "Blues Letter On My Bed" has some great wah-wah guitar from Fuzzy, plus some impassioned vocals. "Killing Floor" is next up, and while Fuzzy sings "I should've left you, Baby, a long time ago"...want to know how it ends? Buy this great CD and find out! "Baja Groove" is a cut that brings the California jam sound, with the awesome drumming of Bruce Hutcherson, and more of Fuzzy's killer guitar. This one should be part of a sound track. If there's any movie or TV producers out there reading this, jump on it! Time for a sad one, with "We Were Through", as the band slows it down, and Fuzzy sings "I came home this morning, all my lady's clothes were gone, she took every damn thing that she owned." Been there? Great stuff, another one of my faves. One more cover, "Born Under A Bad Sign"....with no apologies to Albert King, this is the rockinest version I've ever heard, and absolutely Love It! Closing out is "Woman's Gotta Have It", one more for the dance floor! Some really funky/blues stuff, and the CD finishes up with "Sweet Sixteen", another quality job with their own spin on an old classic. Total recording time One Hour and 17 Minutes! That is what we call a bang for your blues buck!

Fuzzy Rankins has learned and earned his chops, and he's put together one crack-ass band to back him up. Since the recording came out, Kevin Cooper has now joined on bass, who also brings an impressive resume, and in time to appear with them at the IBC. And, uh....oh yeah, Fuzzy also has a Grammy in his back pocket for his guitar work on the appropriately named song "Jazzy Fuzzy" on the last album ever put out by the legendary Ike Turner, the great 2006 "Risin' With The Blues." While this band plays steady dates in the San Diego area, we hope this CD will bring him more exposure on a National level, and get them out this way on a tour. If you need anything Fuzzy, check out www.fuzzyrankinsblues.com. There's also some YouTube out there from the IBC, to help verify what we're sayin' here, and the disc is available from CD Baby. But It and you'll be glad you did! 

Nominated for San Diego Music Awards "Best Blues" CD, Winner of San Diego's 2018 IBC regional blues competition. 
Lenny "Fuzzy" Rankins combines original songs with cover tunes done in original "Fuzzy Fashion." 
Following in the footsteps of Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, and the Yard Birds, Fuzzy takes a whole new approach to familiar blues tunes such as "Thrill is Gone," "Killing Floor," and "Born Under a Bad Sign," and creates a new experience, making old songs new again. 
Recorded at Golden Track Studio, Fuzzy brings his live performance into the studio complete with improvisations and skilled guitar work like no other. 
Fuzzy - CD (The Blues) All songs written and produced by Lenny Rankins except those marked with an *. Musicians who participated in making the CD: Lenny "Fuzzy" Rankins - Lead Guitar/Vocalist, Bruce Hutcherson - Drums, Cynthia "Hindy" Bare - Keys, and Cecil McBee Jr. - Bass. Recorded at Golden Track Studio. Recorded/Mixed/Mastered by Steve Wetherbee.