Shadow Man cool trip through the blues

Shadow Man by John McLean, Charles Barkatz & Friends produced by Mark “Kaz”Kazanoff on TreeTops Records (2020)

My friend, Mark Pucci, has a knack for finding really good offbeat musicians.

He’s done it again with John McLean, Charles Barkatz and Friends.

Mark, who began his career in 1972 in Memphis has had his own music public relations firm Mark Pucci Media since 1996. We met a little earlier when he was with Capricorn Records where he represented artists like Hank Williams, Jr., Widespread Panic, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

This new album Shadow Man is a cool mix of jazz, roots and funk marinated just right in a spicy blues sauce.

John, a great artist and composer, was born in Manhattan but raised on a ranch near Dallas, Texas. That eclectic mix of the big city and wide open country forms the basis for this blues record.

“My good friend Alex Coke introduced me to his brother, John McLean, in early 2019,” said “Kaz” who produced the CD. “John mentioned that he wanted to make a blues record in Austin with his Parisian guitar playing pal Charles Barkatz. I was a bit skeptical at first, not ever having heard of John or Charles in the ‘blues’ world. But as John sent me their demo recordings over the next few months, I began to hear their beautiful and original take on the blues. Not your typical contemporary blues, this material focused on wonderful new poetical lyrics, and songs that created moods ranging from raw deep blues to jazzy almost impressionistic grooves. Our terrific keyboardist, Nick Connolly, lightheartedly described the music as ‘beatnik blues,’ but there is a hard edge of sorrow and existential desperation to the songs. This is real personal blues coming from their lives and experiences, and it demanded a high level of collaboration among John, Charles, me, all the musicians, and Stuart Sullivan, our recording engineer. We all played together in a big room at Wire Recording. The musical result depended on everyone’s creative and often spontaneous effort, lead by our incredible rhythm section of Derek Obrien on guitar, Chris Maresh on bass and John Chipman on drums. Because of the uniqueness and freshness of the song material, as producer I was very comfortable with adding instruments not usually present in contemporary blues contexts. So, we welcomed Alex Coke on alto flute and soprano saxophone, and Elaine Barber on harp, on several tunes. The Texas Horns added their punchy tight arrangements. I hope you will hear and enjoy the fun and excitement we all shared in making this music!”

Shadow Man has quickly become my go-to music for the road.

I especially like the opening cut “Leaky Shoes Blues” and the cool down “Lucia.” The shadow man knows.

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