New album of harmonica player/songwriter/singer MATTHEW SKOLLER’s “BLUES IMMIGRANT” (Tongue ‘N Groove Records / SEPTEMBER 23, 2016).
The album was co-produced by Matthew Skoller and Vincent Bucher and recorded at Joyride Studios in Chicago, IL. “BLUES IMMIGRANT” features 11 songs, nine of which were co-written by the Skoller/Bucher team.
Musicians joining Skoller (Harmonica and Vocals) on “BLUES IMMIGRANT”, his fifth solo release, include Johnny Iguana – Keyboards, (Junior Wells, Chicago Blues A Living History,The Claudettes), Felton Crews – Bass (Miles Davis, Otis Clay, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Billy Boy Arnold), Giles Corey – Guitar, (The Sons of Blues, Otis Rush, Syl Johnson), Eddie Taylor Jr. – Guitar (son of guitar legend Eddie Taylor), Marc Wilson – Drums, (Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets, Nappy Brown, Marcia Ball), Mike Avery and Stevie Robinson – Background Vocals, Carlos Johnson – guest Lead Guitarist, Brian Ritchie – Shakuhachi (The Violent Femmes).
Now one of Chicago’s most respected harp blowers and blues bandleaders, Skoller is originally from New York City — having relocated to Chicago in 1987. Since that time he’s “apprenticed” with some of the greatest Blues performers of their respective generations (as a sideman in bands including Jimmy Rodgers Blues Band, Big Daddy Kinsey and the Kinsey Report, Big Time Sarah and the BTS Express, Deitra Farr Blues Band among many others). Though embraced by his adopted home — and the Chicago Blues community — Skoller never stopped exploring the dynamics of the cultural exchange he’s been so deeply involved in. The notion of cultural appropriation continues to fascinate him (“Blues Immigrant”) and the songs on the new album explore both this issue as well as other issues facing the world today. The title track explores Skoller’s personal history and what led him to that “tree with roots” we call the Blues. “Big Box Store Blues” is a tribute to and a rewriting of John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson’s chestnut “Welfare Store Blues” in which Skoller laments the loss of Mom and Pop stores in the neighborhood and the exploitation of retail workers. “The Devil Ain’t Got No Music” – a song Matthew wrote for Blues great Lurrie Bell on the album of the same title which Skoller produced – explores the relationship between Blues and Gospel music. (The song was nominated for “Song of the Year” by The Blues Foundation in 2012.) Almost all these songs have a sly thread of humor running through them providing levity to the weighty subject matter: “…I need a green card to play the Blues.” “Only In the Blues” addresses the Blues music industry with wry humor and irony and “Story of Greed” is about the dangerous position that corporate greed has put the world in. There are also songs that explore the dangerous terrain of lost and found love that the Blues is so famous for. On “Tear Collector” Skoller’s unique sense of poetics focuses on this subject. Skoller’s muscular harp tones are featured on two instrumentals, “Organ Mouth” and the Papa Lightfoot gem “Blue Lights”.
Skoller, known for his fiery and engaging performances, combines passionate harp playing and singing with original songwriting and prodigious production skills. He’s self-produced 4 of his own critically acclaimed CDs. As a producer he has produced 2 award-winning CDs by Lurrie Bell: “Let’s Talk About Love” and “The Devil Ain’t Got No Music” (2012 Prix Blues by L’Academie du Jazz in Paris, France and “Blues Song Of The Year” nomination for the title track). Skoller has played harmonica on three Grammy nominated CD’s in the last 5 years: “Chicago Blues: A Living History”, “Still I Rise”, by Heritage Blues Orchestra, and “Muddy Waters 100”.
Matthew Skoller collaborated with his brother Larry Skoller (producer) on the Grammy nominated, historical project, “Chicago Blues: A Living History” and co-produced and played on volume two “The (R)evolution Continues” which won “Traditional Album of the Year” at the Blues Awards in 2012. He lent his production experience, deep knowledge of Chicago Blues history, and his harmonica to this project that is now being hailed by critics as one of the greatest Chicago Blues events of our time.
Deeply rooted in the tradition of the Chicago Blues elders with whom he’s worked and studied, Matthew Skoller has developed a unique style that conjures the past while being firmly planted in the present.
“harpist and vocalist Matthew Skoller offers up tasty and authentic Chicago Blues. His songs possess a touch of class and a welcome social conscience” (Blues Revue)
“Matthew Skoller’s style of Chicago blues is a thinking music lover’s dream. It’s upbeat and solidly rocking, but it’s also so much more…” (Performing Songwriter)