Stuffy Shmitt – Stealin’ Stuff
Another covers album done with a lasting sense of personality. The Milwaukee-born Stuffy Shmitt came from a musical family – so coming from a somewhat unhinged history, Stuffy put his eccentricities to good use with his fine instinctive interpretive skills & a prodigious amount of creativity.
“Ramblin’ On My Mind,” opens with Stuffy’s bluesy gruffness & the late Lord Buckley sticking a bit of his hipster philosophy into the finale. That’s creative, that’s a wonderful obligatory hat tip to a cool cat, the creator of the Nazz.
Produced by Stuffy (vocals/guitar/harmonica) with Brett Ryan Stewart (keys/tambourine) the 10-cut Stealin’ Stuff (Dropped September 12-Realistic Records) is sarcastic because he didn’t write this batch. It was recorded in Madison, TN. Stuffy mixes up his nuts & bolts soup with varied implements. There’s balladry, blues, R&R & there’s even a Tom Waits percussive nuance that pops on “Mona.” Absolutely gently barbed in a Bo Diddley way, “Mona” works.
Maybe it’s because it has that Tom Waits/Chuck E. Weiss/Captain Beefheart cum Howlin’ Wolf delivery. It’s vintage in melody but structurally scrubbed clean. The guitars have abrasive timbres that update the groove & vibe quite precisely.
From blues to unadulterated R&R to a prison folk song “Take This Hammer,” finds Stuffy taking a page from the Fairfield Four’s field worker’s songbook. The tune has sweat, bluetail flies, mud & blood on the saddle notes. Then, a surprise. A superb cover of the Psychedelic Furs’ classic “Here Come Cowboys,” that Stuffy renders excellently with Iggy Pop pastiche. Just barely kept on a leash the heavy-duty arrangement plows through the musical dirt with resonance & it’s a well-integrated style for Stuffy.
Then, he segues rhythmically into “The Train Kept A-Rollin.’” The arrangement’s steam bellows down the track. The vocals & backup voices are tightly woven with fluent horns that stab away. It’s obvious that Stuffy is a diversified entertainer who knows how to mix up a repertoire with varied impressionistic spices. “Backwater Blues,” sounds like it was recorded in a Texas hotel with a muted Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five & Seven band.
Turning serious, with no embellishments “Bring It On Home To Me,” tips the scales with its poignancy & delicacy. Eric Burdon did it fabulously. Burton Cummings too. Now add Mr. Shmitt’s.
Highlights – “Ramblin’ On My Mind,” “Mona.” “Take This Hammer,” “Here Come Cowboys,” “The Train Kept a-Rollin’,” “Backwater Blues,” “Like a Virgin” & “Bring It On Home To Me.”
Musicians – Irakli Gabriel (guitar), Jeff Thorneycroft (bass), Chris Benelli (drums/percussion), Jan Peter Ringvold (keys), Dick Aven (sax), Roy Agee (trombone), Rosemary Fossee (vocals) with Chris Tench (guitar), Parker Hawkins (bass) & Steve Latanation (drums). Poems included by Edna Saint Vincent Millay, Stephen Hollins & voiceovers by The Wild Ponies & the late Lord Buckley.
B&W photo courtesy of Stuffy’s website/Squarespace. Color image courtesy Stacie Huckba. The 33-minute CD @ https://www.stuffyshmitt.com/
Enjoy our previous coverage here: REVIEW: Stuffy Shmitt Stuff Happens