Shake the Blues CD Reviews

This music has an ageless quality, old and familiar yet unique and singular in its freshness and live sound… highly listenable and draws you in. Great accomplishment, John… I’m proud to own one of these remarkable guitars as well. I’ve never seen a production where the artist built his instruments and created the songs as well, not to be missed—get a copy.

Great tunes, harmonica extraordinaire, and yup, hand-built instruments.

—Clay Warry

Press Play: John Knutson’s swingin’ ‘Shake the Blues’
By Paul Liberatore, Marin Independent Journal
POSTED: 04/02/15, 3:25 PM PDT 
Local Reviews

Fans of acoustic string band music played with skill and taste are sure to welcome this collection of 13 original songs by luthier John Knutson, whose trio includes stand-up bassist Bill Fouty and former Mill Valley mandolin master David Grisman.

Knutson plays six of the instruments he built in his shop in Forestville, including mandolins and archtop, flat-top, and resonator guitars. He sings in a back porch baritone and blows a nice harmonica on socially conscious tunes he wrote over 45 years.

He leavens his anti-war and civil rights songs with a dose of wry humor on such tracks as “Talkin’ Lovesick Serenade: A Mean-Spirited Look at Heartache” and “Lowdown Money Blues: Pickin’ for a Livin’ Is a Tough Life for Most Musicians.”

As you would expect, Grisman plays with elegance and impeccable technique on Knutson’s mix of vocals, songs, and instrumentals. The album was recorded in two six-hour sessions, “unrehearsed, unplugged and raw,” Knutson informs us, and includes between song banter among the musicians, giving the listener an added sense of being in the studio during the recording.

As with any project Grisman is involved in, the disc includes a slick, full-color booklet with the lyrics and photos and descriptions of the instruments the musicians are playing on each cut.

If it took Knutson 45 years to write and record these fine fingerpicking blues and ragtime tunes, let’s hope it doesn’t take him that long for the next one because, after this stellar debut, his fans are sure to want more of the same.

—Paul Liberatore

CD Review by Huckle (aka Simon Kurth)
SHAKE THE BLUES – The Songs, Artistry, and Luthiercraft of John Knutson

Amazing record! John is not only the singer, songwriter, guitarist, and harp player for this record, he also built many of the instruments that are played on it. His thirteen original compositions span forty-five years, and are firmly rooted in acoustic blues, jazz, and Americana. David Grisman’s down and dirty, yet sophisticated melodic blues mandolin playing really adds to the expressive feel of each song, and provides a strong melodic counterpoint to the inventive and intelligent guitar stylings of Knutson’s playing. Recorded in two live sessions as an acoustic trio, you can hear the spontaneity and intimacy of the recording process. The mix makes you feel like you are right there in the studio with the band, listening to them. Also of note are the socially conscious lyrics that walk the line between poetic, autobiographical, humorous, and fiercely candid, and their honesty strikes a chord. ‘Shake the Blues’ is a life statement, where the music you listen to has been literally crafted in every conceivable facet by the artist.

—Simon Kurth

I listened to it this evening. What a great record! You really put a lot of heart and soul into this and it shows. Congratulations on this accomplishment. No small feat, I know. And Jeff is to be commended on his stellar production. Of course, having Dawg along helps everything! (Can he even play a wrong note? I don’t think so.) Anyway, big kudos to you on a very fine piece of work.

—Kevin Russell, December 4, 2014

“Shake the Blues” is a brilliantly sonic musical delight from start to finish.  John Knutson wrote all the songs and lyrics and plays guitar on his own hand-built instruments. Even Grisman plays one of John’s mandolins and Fouty plays one of John’s upright electric basses.  As if that weren’t enough John also plays amazing harmonicas and sings while playing his buttery-sounding guitars.

The music on “Shake the Blues” spans several decades of Americana. A few of the songs hearken to a time gone by, reminiscent of juke joint music and southern soulful blues.  John’s archtop guitars are seamlessly integrated into the music and find a perfect sonic home here. I especially love the songs written during the 60’s as they are perfect reflections of those times in musical form.

The lyrics and songwriting on “Shake the Blues” are superb no matter what the genre and time period. The audio quality and mix is excellent with reverence and space given towards hearing every note. And why not? Because playing on the CD are an expert trio of musicians. Rounding out this amazing musical trio is Bill Fouty, one of the tastiest bass players around.

I highly and heartily recommend John Knutson‘s CD “Shake the Blues.”  It is a completely enjoyable listen.

—Randy Scheler, 12/22/14

Fresh, well recorded, Great musicianship!

—Michael Hayworth