Big Frank & The Healers
Lost World Music
BluesWax Rating: 8 out of 10
Who Is This Guy?
Big Frank Mirra is an esoteric traditionalist well versed in Chicago-style blues. Mirra, guitar and vocals, learned from the “old-school” masters like Louis Myers. In 2005 Mirra released Big Frank and The Healers Vintage 1040. Now, seven years later, he has followed up with Sparky’s Lounge.
The Healers are Margery Peters, bass (Brad Vickers and His Vestopolitans); Bill Rankin, drums; Kid Java, harp; Carl Snyder, keyboards; and, Matt Cowan on saxophones. The background vocalists include Nikki Armstrong, Miranda St.Croix, and Melanie Lonz Miglionica. The CD has been recorded and mixed by Dave Gross and is co-produced by Mirra and Snyder.
Mirra has written ten of the eleven tracks, but they sound a lot older than they actually are. His vocals on “I Love My Baby” and “Simple Man” have the grit and feel of the old electric blues we first heard in the 1950s and ’60s. Mirra’s slide guitar is perfect. Kid Java’s harp on the opening track, “Tell Me How You Feel,” and again on “Ferryboat Ride” round out a great band. “Twice a day you’re my ferryboat ride.”
The title track, “Sparky’s Lounge,” features Mirra’s talking blues with a great horn arrangement and backing vocals. The only cover is “Your Red Wagon,” which has been recorded almost 900 times and in every genre imaginable; Mirra makes this song fresh again. Mirra closes with “Toll Booth Woman” and he sings and plays it like Muddy.
There are a lot of guitarists that can play better but there are few who can play this style and recreate the feel of the old Chicago blues masters. Mirra’s sound has the warmth that comes from his knowledge of this music. Check out Big Frank.
Richard Ludmerer is a contributing editor at BluesWax.
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