Take two virtually unknown singers, Don Nix and Jeanie Greene, one 78 year old bluesman, Furry Lewis, a 15 piece backing band dubbed the Mt. Zion Band and Choir, and then charge a robust $1.50 to see them in concert. And so it was with The Alabama State Troopers back in 1971. Think Delaney and Bonnie on tour without the star power.
The Alabama State Troopers performed at the Long Beach Civic Auditorium October 15, 1971, and the Pasadena Civic Auditorium two days later and the tape machine running. Those performances resulted in the double album Road Show. Real Gone Music has now reissued this long out of print and vastly underappreciated album.
Their music was a fusion of blues, soul, and funk. Lewis began his recording career as an acoustic blues guitarist in 1927-1929. While not a big name in the early 1960s blues revival movement, he had performed with nix in the past. Nix had been associated with Leon Russell 1963-1969 and released two excellent albums. Jeanie Greene quickly disappeared from the music scene but she had a fine voice that was equally at home in a blues, gospel, and rock format.
They were one of those bands that were better live than in the studio as it gave them room to stretch out their songs through improvisation. The tracks are presented as they were performed with no overdubbing or studio tricks. The only negative mentioned in the liner notes were the elimination of some songs due to time constraints.
The acoustic part of the concert finds Nix and Furry technically adept as they play their hybrid brand of the Delta blues. “Chicken Ain’t Nothin’ But A Bird”, a wonderful laid back version of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” “Jesus On The Mainline,” and “Furry’s Blues” are all very listenable over 40 years later.
They are better in full electric rock/blues mode, which makes sense if you have a 15 person group on stage. Greene and Nix both had commanding and explosive voices that fit their brand of music. By the time they reach their concert closer “Goin’ Down” they sound exhausted as they go all out all the time.
The Alabama State Troopers were a band for the short hall and their sound quickly became obsolete as the 1970s progressed and eventually disappeared. Their music is raw at times, over the top in other places, but always well-played and entertaining. Road Show is a nice journey back in time to a long gone era and it is nice to have it back in circulation.