Holly Hyatt and Jon Burden ‘Shufflin’ The Blues’ Album Review

Shufflin’ The Blues is the title of the new blues release by Holly Hyatt and Jon Burden on Flood Plane Records. It was recorded live at The Silverton Gallery, Silverton, British Columbia, which makes for an intimate “you are there” ambiance. The sound is both defined and balanced with the album liner notes communicating that the music was recorded completely live and mixed without overdubs, auto tune, or programming. The nine selections are split between five originals and four choice cover interpretations that ably serve as tributes to some of their musical influences. Holly Hyatt plays stand-up acoustic and electric bass, her father Jon Burden plays acoustic and electric guitar, and Marvin Walker contributes drums and percussion. The skilled vocals provided are shared throughout by Holly and Jon.

The opening song is an agreeable good-quality rendition of the legendary master Muddy Waters’ classic Chicago blues shuffle “Blow Wind Blow.” The lyrics are mournful with the persistent blues theme of a man lamenting the fact that his woman has left him for another man. The song was originally recorded by Chess Records as the “B” side of “Mad Love (I Want You To Love Me)” on September 24, 1953 with his usual Chicago-era array that consisted of lead and rhythm guitars, bass, piano, drums and blues harp. Muddy also recorded “Blow Wind Blow” on his seminal album “Fathers And Sons” in 1969, a record which remains one of my all-time blues favorites. The bare-bones (guitar, bass, & drums) grouping on Holly and Jon’s take lags behind Muddy’s emotional wattage, but wins points for its subtlety as it chugs steadily along. Jon’s solid vocals and guitar play along with Holly’s vocals are spotlighted to good advantage. The father and daughter duo trade lead vocals, as they do during the course of the show, with few stabs at harmony to be found.

The second song, “Mother Earth Blues,” is another tribute to a blues great, this time piano great Memphis Slim (John Peter Chatman). It’s a slow 12-bar blues with a haunting chorus of “Don’t care how great you are, don’t care what you’re worth, when it all ends up you got to go back to mother Earth.” Holly and Jon give the tune a nice easy swing that is never forced. Both Holly and Jon share inspired vocal renderings with Holly’s steadily composed bass work complimenting Jon’s guitar. For a live release there is not an excess of stage banter included. However, Holly does at the conclusion of this number impart a bit of sage wisdom to the crowd with her observation: “A little bit of blues is good for the soul.” 

“Let’s Boogie” is an energy-filled Holly penned composition that features her on vocals and bass in an up-tempo shuffle that is fleeting in length. The lyrics get concisely to the point in soliciting: “let’s boogie, come on baby, let’s dance, put your lovin’ arms around me, I want to feel some romance.”  The three musicians transmit a compellingly joyful vibe with Jon’s guitar having an early Chuck Berry “Roll Over Beethoven” embryonic exuberance with Holly’s vibrant vocal securely ship-shape fitting the song like a favorite pair of blue jeans.

The next song is another original composition, this one written by Jon and Holly, titled “Lowdown Blues.” It begins with a slow tempo before kicking into gear with a down and dirty boogie rhythm as Holly accomplishes her finest effort at singing the blues away. Much like the great guitarist Jimmy Rogers said “if you don’t dig the blues, you got a hole in your soul.”

Another inspired cover version comes next when Holly and Jon journey back to 1936 with Mississippi Delta Blues Pioneer Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen.” The reconstruction of this timeless classic features some mighty nice bottleneck guitar stylings from Jon and a sublimely soulful vocal as well. Jon reminds me of Dave Alvin in the manner of his delivery that seems to sound better to my ears with each repeated listen functioning to illuminate his profound command of vocal inflection and pitch shading. The familiar lyrics tell the tale of stealing a woman from a friend only to have her stolen back again. The importance of contemporary blues artists to reintroduce archetypal songs such as this one to the current generation cannot be understated. The practice aids to garner an appreciation for the roots of the blues that have inspired so many for so long. Jon and Holly really have a gift for shining their brightest on these blues covers.

Photo by Aszjeca Burden

“Get Your Own Man,” authored by Holly, has a traditional country blues flavor with fine acoustic guitar picking from Jon. The finger-poppin’ rhythm is fueled by Holly’s solidly stepping bass and Marvin Walker’s clear and clean wire-brush drum work. The lyrics lean toward cliché, but there is nothing wrong with that, and Holly sings quite convincingly.

The song “Left Handed Soul” really spoke to me. It’s a slow blues with a great bass line and a unique vocal delivery. Being a musician, I can relate to “living in a right handed world with my left handed soul, I keep walkin’ around in the same ol’ pair of shoes, people diggin’ rock and roll and I’m still shufflin’ the blues.” ~ Holly Hyatt

“Left Handed Soul,” a Nick Gravenites song, has a lazy blues groove which makes it my favorite song on this album. Holly shuffle steps on her bass and Jon’s laid-back vocal is sublime in its simplicity. Jon’s electric guitar work is good as gravy on this one. Also, the lyrics provide the title for the release.  

 “We called our CD Shufflin’ The Blues, not only for the line in that song, but because there are a lot of shuffles on the album and we love to shuffle the blues!” ~ Holly Hyatt

“Black Crow” is a fine original composition that rolls progressively along like a riverboat down the Mississippi. Holly’s vocal is bouncily poppy, lean and light, and sweet as honeysuckle. The acoustical arrangement is delightful and this song displays another example of  how versatile Holly’s voice can be.

The final song is entitled “Slushy Blues” and the lyrics speak of someone who longs to get away from winter’s cold, snow-slushy weather to a climate that is more agreeable. She jazzily sings “take me somewhere where it’s warm” and also shows that she is adept at jazz scat singing.

Jon Burden’s guitar work on Shufflin’ The Blues is always intelligent and full of deep feeling. He continually takes a “less is more” approach on his instrument that is richly satisfying.  The songs on the album are musically and thematically caught in a time warp that takes the audience back to simpler times with their blues variations.  Holly Hyatt and Jon Burden dig deep into that fertile blues soil and harvest a bounty that is sure to please on Shufflin’ The Blues.