Congress of Wonders - The Musical!

My old pal Rodney Hatfield, harp virtuoso and vocalist of Lexington's late, lamented Metropolitan Blues All-Stars, Rodney's long-time pal Lee Carroll, former keyboardist for Exile and The Judds, and Lee's extraordinary pal Big Mitch Ivanoff (guitar and vocals), are the nucleus of Tin Can Buddha, a terrific little band that turns up hereabouts every now and then.  A while back, they invited my unmusical self to sit in with them (as it were) at a recording session, resulting in a CD which they titled, to my surprise and delight, "Congress of Wonders"!

Here are the album notes:

This is Tin Can Buddha’s second live CD recorded at the tiny Quilt Box in Louisville KY; this is Blues and Roots reinterpreted, an honest, soulful and spontaneous performance in a chamber music setting.

At the core of this loose group of artists and musicians are Kentucky native Rodney Hatfield on vocals and harmonica (a celebrated artist formerly with The Hatfield Clan and The Metropolitan Blues All-Stars), and from Harrisburg PA, Lee Carroll on keyboards and Mitch Ivanoff (Central Pennsylvania's most respected interpreters of the blues) on vocals and guitars. In addition you’ll find Mark Jones on vocals and electric guitar, Chip Graham on bass, Jonathan Ragonese on soprano and tenor sax, Jason Hoffheins on drums, and perhaps the highlight of the recording, a reading by Merry Prankster Ed McClanahan of his short story The Congress of Wonders.

This CD is the collaborative effort of artists and musicians, as much about the art as the music. The cover was designed by the Buddha’s own Rodney Hatfield. For more info go to www.tincanbuddha.com

Here's a review of the album:

Congress of Wonders

author: Clay Gaunce

This is one of those recordings that sneaks up on you. The song titles on the jacket tell you it must be a blues album. There’s Muddy Waters’ “Catfish Blues” and “Nineteen Years Old”. Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” and, Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues”. And “Roll ‘em Pete” by Pete Johnson and Big Joe Turner. But what’s this in the middle of the mix?

Why, it’s Ed McClanahan…Captain Kentucky himself in a sort of Captain Beefheart rant…performing the soliloquy of Professor Philander Cosmo Rexroat from his touching short story, THE CONGRESS OF WONDERS... And what’s this? A suave rendering of “Nature Boy”, first made famous by the inimitable Nat King Cole? Yes, but this blend of material should surprise no one who’s seen Tin Can Buddha perform or heard their first CD. TCB is the brainchild of Lee Carroll, who quit the business in 1994 after spending 10 years recording and touring with The Judds and Exile. He was lured from retirement in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, by Mitch Ivanhoff, a steelworker and blues man who leads The Krypton City Blues Revue. Having long ago become a successful businessman, Lee wasn’t drawn back to music for the money. When he quit it was because he’d stopped having fun, and he only started again because Mitch reminded him how to relax and just enjoy making music for its own sake. Lee introduced Mitch to Rodney Hatfield, an old band mate from his early years in Kentucky, and together they formed an ad hoc outfit calling itself The Nairobi Trio. They played at Louisville art galleries where Rodney – aka Art Snake – had paintings on display, and at a private venue known as The Quilt Box. And Lee began developing a concept for the group. It had to be something more than just three guys occasionally getting together to play music for fun. It had to be more than just a band, really. Thus it became Tin Can Buddha: an alchemy of music, visual art, literature, and, whenever possible, other arts and sciences. To say these guys are comfortable in their skin would be an understatement. They blow with passion yet discretion, exhibiting all the polished crudeness of the great blues artists on “Nineteen Years Old” and “Cross Road”. But they aren’t shy about showing their sophisticated side, as expressed in their collaboration with Ed McClanahan, “The Congress of Wonders/She Has the Legs of a Dancing Bear”, combining his rhythmic literature with their free jazz. In addition to Ed, aid and abetment at this Quilt Box show were provided by Mark Jones, Chip Graham, and Jason Hoffheins.

Saxophone parts on two numbers were played by Jonathan Ragonese, added after-the-fact in Columbia, Pennsylvania. Included on the disk is an unlisted tune composed by Mitch called “I’m Gone”, and a bonus track that has to be one of the most moving musical tributes you’ll ever hear…a bittersweet rendering of “You Are My Sunshine”, performed by Mitch and Lee at the memorial service for Lee’s late wife, Carol, in January. The cover art is, of course, by Art Snake, photographed by Geoph Carr. Although Tin Can Buddha ain’t in it for the money, they do wish to continue their altruistic endeavors, offering what I like to call Blues for the 21st Century and opportunities for creative individuals from many disciplines to share their works. To do that they need to recover the expenses associated with producing their CDs.

Buy them and support the cause.

Other Entries from Ed:

01/25/2012 I Just Hitched in From the Coast
9/24/2011 Eschew Higgledy-Piggledy
08/22/2011 Ode to Bubbleheads
08/19/2011 The Magic Trip
08/16/2011 The Congress of Wonders on DVD - Update!
06/01/2010 The Essentials of Western Civilization
05/31/2010 Free-Wiki-You
04/05/2010 McClanahands!
03/23/2010 My Nervous Breakdown
02/16/2010 Congress of Wonders - The Musical!

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