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Alright! Twist It, Babe! Reviews*

"Every record label in America should be engaged in a bidding war.  This man is flat out spectacular!"
-Big City Blues, March ‘98
     “One of the finest acoustic bluesmen in America . . . Superb covers of Skip James, Jessie Mae Hemphill, a couple of Bo Carters and some ‘traditional’ numbers (ones that nobody remembers who wrote).  There’s even a taste of Django.  Catfish calls it ‘Acoustic blues, gospel moans, slippery slide and swinging scat-o-logical party pieces.’  I call it a dozen amazing tunes.  Every fan of acoustic blues should have all six of his discs in their collection.  Every record label in America should be engaged in a bidding war.  This man is flat out spectacular!”


"This is quintessential Delta blues, and
Keith swims deep in the tradition."
 -Gayla Drake Paul, Acoustic Guitar, April ‘98

     “ . . . one of the most exciting guitarists in any genre.  Keith’s great love and delight in this music make Twist It, Babe! completely irresistible.  Pulling blues out of the sky, Catfish Keith lays down a foot-stomping groove.  Considering that two of his first five recordings were nominated for W. C. Handy Awards for Best Acoustic Blues Album and that all five have reached Number One on independent radio station playlists, this is something to get excited about.
     “Two masterpieces of the set are Jessie Mae Hemphill’s ‘Eagle Bird’ and the timeless, traditional, deep-Delta slide-and-moan ‘Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.’  ‘Eagle Bird’ soars and wails, showcasing Keith’s stunning harp harmonics and power string bends.  This is quintessential Delta blues, and Keith swims deep in the tradition.
     “At the other end of the spectrum, there are foot-stomping party pieces like ‘Walk Across the Ocean,’ ‘Your Biscuits Are Big Enough for Me’ and ‘Jack, I’m Mellow.’  ‘Back in Nagasaki,’ attributed to the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, is a rousing close to this collection of gems.”



"Always entertaining and fresh, Catfish Keith
has got the goods.  Highly recommended."
-Jennifer Zogott, Blues Revue, May ‘98
     “Catfish Keith’s sixth album continues to demonstrate this singer/guitarist’s talent and enthusiasm for acoustic blues and other traditional folk music.  Unlike too many other performers, he seems to be motivated by nothing but his love for the music.  He interprets and reworks country blues tunes with skill, affection and ease.  Each of his albums is a primer of traditional styles; his liner notes credit the original artists (even if a song has fallen into public domain, Keith never fails to tip his hat to the originators) and add a little something about style and interpretation.
     “Keith’s acoustic picking (on a small-bodied handmade mahogany guitar) and slide (on a properly rusted National) are excellent, and he sings honestly and with real warmth.  Always entertaining and fresh, Catfish Keith has got the goods.  Highly recommended.”


"Known to work his audiences to the bone,
Catfish Keith is the real acoustic blues king."
-John O’Regan, Rock ‘n’ Reel, March ‘98

     “Catfish Keith, his 1930 National Steel-bodied resonator guitar and his incomparable vocal range from growls to falsettos is a one-man blues revival show and a walking encyclopedia of American acoustic roots music.  Twist It, Babe! is what you get on a live encounter with the besuited Catfish one.  ‘Brownskin Gal’ evokes Taj Mahal’s Caribbean exploits and ‘What Fun We’re Havin’ in Illinois’ and ‘Eagle Bird’ are both intensely felt experiences.  Known to work his audiences to the bone, Catfish Keith is the real acoustic blues king.”



"He plays slide like a man possessed . . ."
-Phil Wight, Blues & Rhythm, Nov. ‘97

     “Mister Catfish is one of the hardest working blues players on the scene, touring Europe and the States incessantly, but this Spring he took some time off to record this, his fifth CD on his own Fish Tail label.
     “Keith’s real strength is his ability to interpret older material, especially from the pre-war era, deftly adapting it to suit his own style without losing the essence of the original.
     “His picking on his small-bodied acoustic guitar gets better every time and he plays slide like a man possessed (ever been to the crossroads, Keith?).  Vocally, he ranges from low growls (check out ‘Dark Was the Night’) to falsetto wails via his regular warm singing style.
     “Superb in every department!”



"His vocals, and, particularly, his guitar sound are instantly recognizable and all of his distinctive trademarks are here. His picking is as sharp and decorative as ever and his slide work is as vibrant as it can get."
-Bob Tilling, Blueprint, Nov. ‘97

     “It has been over 20 years that Catfish has been touring as a solo musician and this latest disc is his sixth release.  A lot has happened to this vibrant acoustic musician in the last few years, including a number of European tours and two nominations for a W. C. Handy Award.  This exciting and dynamic performer is already well known to many Blueprint readers (nominated as Best Overseas Artist) and they certainly will not be disappointed with his very latest 50 minute long set.
     “His vocals, and, particularly, his guitar sound are instantly recognizable and all of his distinctive trademarks are here.  His picking is as sharp and decorative as ever and his slide work is as vibrant as it can get.
     “For me the great highlight of this well-balanced set, also including titles by Bo Carter, Joseph Spence and Trixie Smith, is the taunting Jessie Mae Hemphill song, ‘Eagle Bird,’ with Catfish’s guitar picking at its most subtle, with a slow and evocative tempo.
     “There are no weak areas here and I feel that Catfish sounds more relaxed; his vocals are richer and more expressive than ever.  The final title, ‘Back in Nagasaki’ inspired by Django, has Catfish and stand-up bassman Marty Christensen swinging along at a furious pace, bringing this first-class set to a perfect close.”



"Throughout his career, Catfish Keith has always remained true to the country blues."
-Art Tipaldi, Blues Connection, March ‘98

     “Catfish sure does twist the blues inside out.  What separates Catfish from other acoustic blues players is the way he reworks the prewar country blues landscape.  On Twist It, Babe! Keith molds classics into his own arrangements.  Thus his modernized cover of Lemon Jefferson’s ‘One Kind Favor’ flies with a percussive up tempo, his instrumental version of Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground’ chills as his slide and resonator combination swirls over Catfish’s eerie and insistent moans, and his stinging slide on ‘Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning’ centers this cut right on Fred McDowell’s Como front porch.
     “Keith isn’t all bottleneck gospel.  The two Bo Carter tunes offer a more secular view of the world.  Though it’s ostensibly biscuits from the oven he’s satisfied with in ‘Your Biscuits Are Big Enough for Me,’ you draw your own metaphoric conclusions.  Throughout his career, Catfish Keith has always remained true to the country blues.”



"Who else could pull off material by Jesse Mae Hemphill, then cover Baron Lee and the Blue Rhythm Band
(a ‘30’s big band), then answer with ‘Brownskin Gal,’
a traditional Caribbean folk song?
Who else would even try?"
-Bryan Powell, Blues Access, Spring ‘98

     “Catfish Keith’s fifth Fish Tail CD, Twist It, Babe! is an engaging mix of blues, old-time jazz and Caribbean island rhythms, performed solo or with Marty Christensen’s stand-up bass in stellar support.  Catfish is in command of the material from the opening licks of Skip James’ ‘What Fun We’re Havin’ in Illinois’ to Blind Lemon Jefferson’s ‘One Kind Favor’ to Bo Carter’s
hilarious ‘Your Biscuits Are Big Enough for Me’ (worth the purchase price alone!) and the jumping swing of the Quintet du Hot Club de France’s ‘Back in Nagasaki.’
     “It’s a pleasing diverse set that eschews cliched old stand-bys for songs that are distinctive and unfamiliar.  Who else could pull off material by Jesse Mae Hemphill, then cover Baron Lee and the Blue Rhythm Band (a ‘30’s big band), then answer with ‘Brownskin Gal,’ a traditional Caribbean folk song?  Who else would even try?  All in all, it makes for an impressive record that’s easy to listen to over and over.”


*excerpts from longer reviews

Fish Tail Records
PO Box 2561
Iowa City, IA  52244 - USA
Ph/Fax:  (319) 338-3614
email:   catfishk@inav.net
Contact:  Penny Cahill
Order Toll Free:  1-888- 4-CATFISH  (1-888-422-8347)

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