Grandpa Elliott
Sugar Sweet

3.5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

A few years ago, a friend E-mailed me a video of Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" performed by musicians from all over the world for a project dubbed "Playing for Change." The three lead vocalists, in order, were Roger Ridley, a gruff-voiced powerhouse from Los Angeles; New Orleans based bluesman/R & B belter Grandpa Elliott, and Youngblood shouter Clarence Bekker from the Netherlands. The throat-ripping Ridley was the best, Bekker the most aggressive, and Grandpa fit the role of an authentic overlooked street musician. Grandpa had the whole Blind Lemon Chitlin' persona going, but his vocal for "Stand by Me" was occasionally hindered by his lack of an upper plate. Well, give a man the right tunes and some opportune dental work and a star is born.

Don't be put off by the trio of tentative tunes that start the album off, Grandpa sweetens things up as the finds his stylistic footing. The opener, "Ain't Nothin' You Can Do," was recorded with gusto by Van Morrison for his live album "It's Too Late to Stop Now." Grandpa will never win an award for clarity ("Dere ain't nuttin' you kan do"), but his vocal is less gruff than it was for his turn on "Stand by Me." His "Ain't Nothin' You Can Do" is done in a laid-back yet positive manner reminiscent of Bobby Mcferrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy," with bubbly guitar work by Louis Mhlanga. Grandpa helps set the mood with an easy going harp solo.