"Colorado blues man Dan Treanor has been at it for 35 years. He's an
outstanding writer, a Blues in the Schools instructor, a noted harp player, and a multi-instrumentalist who builds
many of the traditional African gadgets he plays. Frankie Lee is an old-school black soul shouter, classic in every
sense. The two recently collaborated in the studio. What could that possibly sound like? Well, African Wind sounds familiar and brand
new all at once. There are primeval, exotic rhythms similar to those that sound out from an ancient village, or
similarly, from a juke in the Mississippi hills. It has fabulous songs that touch on a wide range of emotions.
The soul is poured on in heaps, the rock 'n roll scattered on top. It boogies with heat."
Hittin' the Note
Issue 44, 2005
A Winning Wind: Africa meets America on an unusual new collaboration
"There seems to be a new, untapped outpost for blues: Colorado. First, Otis Taylor unleashed his music upon
the world, no comes Dan Treanor. Treanor might not be known outside Colorado blues circles, but he soon will be:
This powerful album features the intensity of Delta blues, the instruments of Africa, and the vocal assistance
of West Coast soul man Frankie Lee. African Wind
turns out to be a 15-song masterpiece.
"In addition to harmonica, acoustic guitar, dobro, keyboards, and bass, Treanor plays traditional African
instruments such as ngoni (a four or seven stringed banjo), khalam (guitar), kalimba (thumb piano), and djembe
(hand drum). The percussive expertise of Gary Flori, who helped record the album, gives African Wind additional
flavor. Since the music has a drive that evokes North Mississippi hill country blues, it's startling to hear Lee's
soul vocals fit comfortably into the mix. The songs have their own individual markets: "Mean
Woman Blues" uses the hypnotic drum pattern of "Willie and the Hand Jive," while
"Tell Me Mama"
employs the cadence of "Sweet Home Chicago."
The title track is loaded with instrumental effects, most notably the kalimba, which sounds something like an open
musical jewelry box. "Black Hanna"
sounds like Dick Dale Playing the diddley bow.
"In the blues, "different" is sometimes seen as akin to "scary bad." Not in this case.
Treanor and Lee have created a unique, refreshing disc that could mark a cornerstone in the genre's evolving sound.
African Wind is a stone
"This collaboration between soul singer Frankie Lee and multi-instrumentalist
bluesman Dan Treanor definitely utilizes some African elements, but the title might be an exaggeration. At heart
it's very much a straightforward (and excellent) blues record. Of course, the blues does have its roots in African
music, but they're not as widely explored as they might be. "African Wind" comes closest, with kalimba
(and Lee doing his best Taj Mahal imitation), and "Cane Flute Soul" brings in fife and drum again, originally
from West Africa, but really more familiar from Mississippi hill country. "The Griot" pays tribute to
the African historian storyteller and historian, but with very American style. That said, Treanor does use ngoni
and khalam (although it's hard to hear the former). But don't come looking for the kind of African-American connection
you'll find in, say Ali Farka Toure; it's not there and doesn't pretend to be. In spite of Treanor's instrumental
abilities, it's Lee who's the star of the show here, with a big, broad voice that's perfectly at home in the blues,
whether on the acoustic "Tell Me Mama" or the fast shuffle of "Who's Playing Who." He's a talent
who deserves much broader exposure, and if there's any justice, he'll get it from this."
All Music Guide
"It's easily the best Blues CD I've heard this year! Frankie Lee is a
highly gifted singer based out of Oakland, CA, who rightfully belongs in the same league as Otis Redding, and Bobby
"...It's the next best thing to having a front table at a North Mississippi juke joint. Fred Litwin of NorthernBlues
must have the most highly developed instincts of any Blues label owner around. He certainly gets hundreds of recordings
to listen to, yet immediately he realized that this one was something unique and special. I truly believe that
African Wind is the best
release ever on his label, and that's no small testimonial, given that he's had such super talents as Otis Taylor,
Kevin Breit, John Dickie, Janiva Magness, Danny Brooks, J-W Jones, David Jacobs-Strain, and Toni Lynn Washington
featured on his imprimatur. This African Wind
will blow you away!"
"Dan Treanor has a thing for handmade African-inspired instruments and
the harmonica. Texas-born Soul shouter Frankie Lee has kicked around the biz since his Ike and Tina Turner days,
played with Albert Collins for nearly a decade, and is credited with a couple recordings with Doug Newby and the
Bluzblasters and three solo albums, the best being an early Hightone release with a few Dennis Walker compositions,
The Ladies and The Babies. Providence has brought them together for African
Wind, a collection of hard-to-describe tunes with eclectic instrumentation.
Both acoustic and electric, sometimes with a screaming guitar, as on "True
Love" (Is that a cheesy farfisa I hear?), oft times resembling
the Hill country music of Mississippi but with a half twist. Try "Cane
Flute Soul", for example. The music varies from the Bo Diddley
beat of "Mean Woman Blues"
to "Love A Woman's Soul,"
which seemingly descended from Congo Square.
Remember the diddley bow? Get your fill of it here, along with the khalam, ngoni, and djembe. Last time I heard
a thumb piano was Earth, Wind, and Fire! Even the usually intrusive drum programming was seamlessly integrated.
Dazzling combinations of sounds, a great voice, and an imaginative mix make this CD a sure bet for the Handy Award
program in multiple categories. It is great to see Frankie Lee get a shot at the recognition that had eluded him
and he so richly deserves. Now everyone can appreciate what Californians have known for years, Frankie Lee is the
If you are looking for something fresh and new but that still combines traditions old as the hills, which is especially
hard to accomplish in this medium, give this recording a whirl.
A tip of the bandana to Fred Litwin of NorthernBlues for having the foresight, or balls, to release this kind of
material and Dave McIntyre of the Colorado Blues Society for turning Fred on to it.
Rated 9 out of 10."
"This new release by Dan Treanor and Frankie Lee, on Fred Litwin's award-winning
Northern Blues label in Canada, is one of the finest rousing and fun blues CD's that's ever crossed my musical
path. Enlightening, entertaining, energetic and a whole lotta fun!!!! All that and more!!! Superlatives galore
wouldn't suffice to describe the absolute joy in listening to this incredible CD.
As you can see, I'm very much taken with it. 'African Wind' features Frankie Lee's incredibly rousing, right-from-the-heart vocals, added to
with zest and gusto by Dan Treanor's awesome harp playing, along with Treanor's impeccable acoustic guitar rhythms
and leads. His musical approach is traditional in every way. The exhuisite taste with which he complements every
vowel and word of Lee's out-of-this-world vocals, is a bond that's rare and very special in this day and age of
commercialized, pre-packaged music of all kinds - including blues! These blues men came Litwin's way via Dave McIntyre
of the Colorado Blues Society. http://www.coblues.com/
Just listen to Lee sing out "I don't know what to do. I believe I've been kidnapped by the blues", in
the song of the same name - "Kidnapped By The Blues". This is followed by the upbeat "Texas
Son", featuring Lee belting out, "I'm a Texas son . a long
way from home." The amazing rhythms is this and every song on 'African
Wind', are added to by some rare and wonderful African instruments,
namely the 'Diddley Bow', the 'Umakeyana', the 'Ngoni', the 'Khalam' the 'Kalimba' and the 'Djembe'. It's mentioned
in the informative and entertaining liner notes (provided by Northern Blues founder Fred Litwin) that the 'Diddley
Bow' is probably the first instrument that many of the legendary blues men played - such as Muddy Waters, Jimmy
Rogers, B.B. King, etc. The 'Diddley Bow' is basically (cotton) baling wire nailed to the side of a cabin or barn,
with wood pushed under it at either end - then a glass bottle or metal pipe slid along it, while being plucked
at the same time. ("Cut With Dynamite"
among other tracks, features some of this sweet slidin'.) Talk about innovation - and also the very basic and most
beautiful essence of the birth of the blues for most of the true innovators of this genre. This is truly it!
Erica and Peggy Brown provide some extremely soulful background vocals and call and answer to Lee's soulful vocal
yearnings in "Lonesome Road"
among others. "Mean Woman Blues",
the second tune on this superlative blues CD, begins with some very emphatic African percussion, and continues
with Lee's determined vocals and Treanor's energetic harp accompaniment. My personal favorite is "Tell Me Mama". It's rousing blues
at its best, by those who know how to get a place hoppin' - as Treanor and Lee definitely do - with good taste
and total class all the way!
There are so many .. and too many (all at the same time) good things to say (in a review) about the 15 absolutely
perfect blues tunes on this amazing first CD on the Northern Blues label for Dan Treanor and Frankie Lee. I feel
every blues fan owes it to their love of the blues to give 'African
Wind' a listen. After that, maybe it'll become a favorite of yours,
as it has become mine!"