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By Michael Higgins

Joe MetzkaJoe Metzka – LIVE AT BB'S

FOR live STL blues, BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups is the grandad laureate. Opened in 1976, blues legends Roosevelt Sykes and Henry Townsend christened the former brothel with its very first live gig. Forty years later, BB's legacy of live music has blessed us with the best of both local and national talent.

The 19th century flat still charms. The original hardwood floors and shotgun bar resonate a timeless mystique. Drawings of STL blues greats from Lonnie Johnson to Big Joe Williams warmly welcome patrons to both the bar and food tenderers. And the upstairs --- where those ill-reputed dames once bedded their johns --- has been fully renovated for weekend and special events.

Late in 2009, owners Mark O'Shaughnessy and John May decided to record live music. The first was to be Lil' Dave Thompson. A blossoming national talent from Mississippi, Lil' Dave played stunning Albert King influenced guitar. But tragedy struck when he perished in a van wreck. With that despairing fate though, a local recording stretch gave birth.
Big Mike Aguirre would be the first. Forming his Blu-City All Stars, their debut sparked a truly ascending note. The Ivas John Band played that forward, futher building their own national appeal. Eugene Johnson & Company rocked an excited and packed house with their funky, heartfelt soul-blues. And most recently, Big George Brock, the "Heavyweight Blues Champ", reminded us that even at 80, he still has to "keep his bedroom door locked".

Say hello to Joe Metzka.

A Chicago transient, Metzka's smokin' blue LIVE AT BB'S is not only a funky, jazz-rock tinged aural treat, it's a true embodiment of St. Louis' deep musicianship.

Metzka actually moved here three years ago. Pursuing a teaching career, he also hoped to sharpen his strong blues based guitar and vocal chops. Auditioning for live work, BB's agreed to a regular Thursday gig. To perform though, Metzka paid his Chicago based band to stay overnight after each show. Cash earned became a wash. So John May offered a suggestion: Try some STL musicians.

That proposition was not only a winner, this CD is its showcase.

Starting with the Metzka original "Your Love", keyboardist Ladale Fitzpatrick, bassist Phil Burton and drummer Ron Carr lay open a palette primed for sweet improv. All of Metzka's songs are excellent. The driving "Can't Keep Up With You", love seeking "Stay", and jazzy after hours instrumental "Ladale And Ron Go To White Castle" grace his natural songwriting with the ensemble's deft skill.

True to his Chicago roots, Metzka covers Otis Rush's "All Your Love" and the classic blues staple "Sweet Home Chicago". He also covers our city's "Everyday I Have The Blues" and segues a fascinating combo of "Ain't No Sunshine" with "Summertime". But the most moving cover is "Georgia". A Hoagy Carmichael ballad that Ray Charles lifted straight to heaven, Metzka's smoky voice and Fitzpatrick's classic piano tugs the beating heart as well as Ray Charles' version ever did.

The St. Louis scene has and continues to grow a myriad of blues based styles. Whichever way the mirror points though, this town's ability to reflect, absorb and grow is exponential. Joe Metzka's LIVE AT BB'S not only follows the precedence of BB's four wonderful blues releases, it delivers its own pure stamp of STL magic.

Frankly speaking, Joe Metzka's arrival can be heralded as a welcomed awakening. Just push play on the CD player and let this baby spin. The real deal flows from there...... ENJOY!!

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