Sing Out Vol. 39 #2
At last, a live Roy Book Binder album. Book Binder is a good singer and player, but his greatest strength is as a performer and raconteur, using his music to frame his stories and the stories to give background to the music.
The central figure in Book Binder's pantheon is the great Rev. Gary Davis. Davis figures as the hero of a couple of monologues and two songs, and Book Binder plays two Davis compositions and two original numbers directly derived from Davis' chops. Book Binder captures the Reverend's funky rhythmic feel better than most modern players. Other pieces come from Bo Carter, Jimmie Rodgers, and two from Willie McTell. Book Binder's rollicking ragtime reading of McTell's "King Edward Blues" following a tongue-in-cheek introduction is a swinging album highlight.
Book Binder's picking is solid and funky, and his voice has never sounded better. At his best, he recalls early Ramblin' Jack Elliott with his hillbilly blues inflections, and there is more than a hint of Paul Geremia as well as a host of old bluesmen in Book Binder's phrasing. The stories string it all together with wryly self-deprecating wit and funny anecdotes about his heroes. Too many players treat classic blues as museum pieces. Book Binder doesn't exactly bring the style up to date, but he makes his historical exhibits so engaging and fun that they never feel old-fashioned. His show is like a great old movie - not modern, but a hell of a lot better entertainment that most things on the current scene.
- E.W. (Sing Out)