Don McMinn has been a Memphis mainstay for
about a hundred years now (at least it seems that way), and Painkiller Blues
is a good example of why he's been able to remain on top locally for so
long. It is a solid, if not groundbreaking, blues record that offers good
lead guitar, growling vocals and enough Memphis references to keep the
locals and Beale Street tourists happy.
As he strolls through the title track, you can almost see him on the
Crawdad's or Rum Boogie stage, singing about getting a cold Budweiser and a
glass of gin. But in the end, Painkiller As much as we enjoy McMinn, he does
not seem to be pushing himself very hard. His almost laborious reading of
House of the Rising Sun slows the record down, rather than add to its
palette. And Memphis in May is strictly a sing-a-long for tourists. He would
be better served to work on more originals rather than covering songs by
Hank Williams Jr. (Loving Instructor). Too often he goes for novelty over
true blues. It plays well in the clubs, but on record we would like to see
him stretch out more.
The thing is, when McMinn wants to crank out true blues, he can. The title
track and Down Home Blues are good examples. He pours real emotion into his
playing and singing, gets good backup from a band that includes keyboards
and horns and stays away from cheap sentiment or local references guaranteed
to get a cheer from a Beale Street bar crowd.