BOOTLEGGIN' THE BLUES
The title “Texas Legend” is not bestowed for nothing. Guitarist, singer and barroom poet Leo Hull earned the honor from rocking demanding roadhouse fans with rawhide tough music and sharp observations about life. Originally from Oklahoma, where his dad played slide guitar with a pocketknife, he hopped a Greyhound bus to Dallas in the early sixties with his Silvertone guitar and little else. He has released four albums of hot grooving blues since 2003 topped by the sensational Bootleggin’ the Blues featuring his nine original compositions packing the punch of raw corn liquor. Backed by the Texas Blues Machine of Buddy Whittington (guitar), Ron DiIulio (keyboards), Jerry Hancock (bass), Larry Randall (tenor sax) and Chuck “Popcorn” Lowden and Warren Dewey (drums), it overflows with the real grit like a gulley washer in springtime.
The title track chugs like a 100-car freighter as Hull relates his bio in a burnished, country-fried voice, Whittington pummels his Strat and DiIulio busts out his barrelhouse chops. Reminiscent of Jimmy Reed, an acknowledged favorite of Hull, “The Hustle” shuffles with an easy gait that belies the cautionary tale: “Jimmy was a hustler, hustle you for a dime…he brought a gun to a knife fight, now that boy’s doin’ time” and the stark imagery of, “Jody went to Hollywood, she gonna be a star…now she makes her rent money, workin’ the back seat of a car.” The amped up rockabilly boogie of “Road Hard” has Hull boasting, “Yeah, it’s good to be on the road man, workin’ hard to be number one” while Whittington fills between vocals with a sweet, silvery guitar tone.
“Blowtorch Baby” finds Hull displaying his mastery of boogie in his unaccompanied intro and extolling the virtues of a particularly “red hot mama” he desires to, “…cool you down and make you mine.” The deceptively simple loping shuffle, with Randall trading honking solos with the sizzling Whittington, shows Hull owning the irresistible groove as Robert Johnson did back in Mississippi. Warming to his subject, Hull again sets the groove bar high while illuminating the two recreational goals of rambling bluesmen in the rumbling “Whiskey and Women,” nailing his point with the extraordinary, “…guitars are always true to their tone…but a woman, when she’s really bad, make a good man leave home.” Rocking on without let up, Hull drives “The Road” with his unrelentingly propulsive rhythm guitar as Whittington adds the high test petrol while the singer waxes wistfully about missing his woman.
When Hull sings, “I said, honey, are you attached, and please tell me, do, because those boots in the corner, don’t look like they’ll fit you” on “Pistol # 69,” you damn well believe the veracity of his tale. “Runnin’ Away Again” follows appropriately with the ironic lines, “Well… she said, ‘Baby, there won’t be no other…and I’m gonna take you home and we gonna have breakfast with my mother.’ Hell, can I be to blame, mama was an old flame, and here I am on the road, I’m runnin’ away again” as Randall splinters the reed of his sax. The slow grinding shuffle of “Between You and Me” closes the show through a moving tribute to fallen musical idols, beginning with a classic guitar intro by Hull, who proudly declares from long experience, “If you ain’t played the blues in Texas, then son, you ain’t played the blues.”
Authenticity is the coin of the realm in the blues even in a slow economy and Leo Hull has plenty banked away for hard times. Investing in him guarantees the highest return in musical capital and will outperform the fluctuations of silver and gold.
Dave Rubin, 2005 KBA recipient in Journalism