What the critics are saying about Box 1:
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
Mean Old Fireman
& The Cruel Engineers
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2019
So if you were to walk into just about any firehouse in the country and say “Hi, I’m here to see the mean old fireman and the cruel engineers,” you’d most likely be booted out on your ass for being disrespectful to a group of brave first responders. However, if you happened to walk into a certain engine company in the Boston, MA area and said the same thing, you just might be greeted with “Sure, c’mon in, they’re in the back jammin’.” You see, the mean old fireman is actually Ned Bolle, a full-time firefighter and a heck of a bluesman and musician, as well.
The band consists of Ned on slide guitar, guitar, banjo, and vocals; Rick Plourde on bass; Joey Pafumi on drums and percussion; Chuck Whiting and John Wadkins on keyboards and Christina Lacoste on accordion.
“Box 1” contains approximately a dozen tracks with many being impeccably done instrumentals and half being Ned Bolle’s originals. The reason I use the word approximately is because the list contains medleys and songs within songs.
Unaware as to the origin of the opening track, with it being the band’s namesake, I just assumed that “Mean Old Fireman” was an original song. Discussing this with Ned, and delving further into it on the Internet, I’m now aware that it was written by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and made popular by The Original Fleetwood Mac – some fifty years ago. The song tells the story of a man actually losing his woman to a mean old fireman and cruel engineer.
Having now listened to that rendition, I’ve got to say, I’m liking this one better. Reason being, I’m loving Ned’s gruff and scratchy vocals. Some would call this a smoker’s voice but with him being a real-life “smoke eater”, I don’t even want to go there. Besides the outstanding vocals, this over seven-minute track features several instrumental interludes that highlight killer rhythm from Rick, Joey and Chuck and some fine pickin’ and slidin’ by Ned on the guitars.
In upper New England, a mountain passage is referred to as a “notch”. This original instrumental titled “Through The Notch” is classic Americana music that will mystically transcend you to a peaceful and relaxing drive on a journey through the notch on that beautiful American highway.
At barely over one hundred seconds long, if you danced to “Hogg Wild” you’d have yourself a decent cardio workout. The song pays tribute to the fictional country slide player known as “The Great Joe Bob Hogg” – a figment of the imaginations of the Hogg Brothers – a famous Boston area country, or as they like to say “Cowpunk” band. This is pickin’, strummin’ and drummin’ on steroids.
“A Second Line Procession: Amazing Grace/Gulf Of Slides” is a medley of a traditional and an original song. On the first part – “Amazing Grace” – Ned’s Resonator work needs to be mandatory listening for any guitar student. The original part of the Medley – “Gulf Of Slides” is another reference to New England folklore. Legend has it that the mountain ravines that fill with clouds are called “Gulfs” and on Mount Washington, the one that is prone to rock slides and avalanches is called the “Gulf of slides”. Of course, the guitar work remains stunning and once again the rhythm – this time fueled by fabulous percussion by Joey – is killer.
So you know how most of the times, no matter how good a rendition of a classic is, it’s mostly said that “the original was better”? Well had this been the original version of “Sleepwalk“, people would be saying that as good as Santo and Johnny’s version was it wasn’t as good as this one. I’ve literally heard this song done by countless numbers of artists and I’m telling you that if you have as well, you’ve got to hear this one.
This next original track is titled “Miles Per Hour” and although it doesn’t have a number in the front, if it did it would be a high one. It’s a fast-paced instrumental done in a very fast two minutes and yet there is time enough to feature everyone involved. With Ned and John taking turns sparring on guitars, banjos, and keyboards, even Rick and Joey manage to sneak is a bass and drum solo. I’m telling you right now, this may not be blues but it is some seriously kick-ass bluegrass.
Other tracks on this very well done project include: “On Your Marc“, an original dedicated to slide guitarist Marc Athlan; a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing“; another original titled “Bogged Down” which features four different movements cleverly titled: “Bye Ewe” (Bayou); “Mount McKinley” (in recognition of McKinley Morganfield); “Beau Nose” (in recognition of Bo Diddley); and “Low Well” (a nod to Lowell George of Little Feat); additionally, the disc ends with Ned’s solo acoustic version of “Mean Old Fireman“.
I’m going on record as saying that inasmuch as this recording is not 100% blues it is indeed 100% enjoyable, 100% entertaining and 100% impressive. From everything to Ned’s New England references to the titling of his songs, the projects just screams creativity.
To find out more about the Mean Old Fireman just go to www.meanoldfireman.com. When you do, please tell him his friend the Blewzzman sent you.
A.J. Wachtel – September 16, 2019
MEAN OLD FIREMAN & THE CRUEL ENGINEERS
Ned Bolle is a stupendous slide guitarist. Not in the Duane Allman or Johnny Winter vein but more traditional and more similar to Son House and Bukka White’s playing. The name of their band is a tip of the hat to the traditional song of the same name that was made famous by Jeremy Spencer and Fleetwood Mac’s rendition many moons ago.
Ned also starts his cd with his own cover of ‘Mean Old Fireman;’ which is sometimes credited as being a traditional song with no known author. I was always under the impression that Arthur Crudup, the father of rock and roll, who also wrote ‘That’s Alright, Mama,’ was the author; but without question it is an appropriate choice to start his new release given the style and influence of his own slide guitar playing. Ned is a great finger picker and he has an Americana/rural blues sound; heavy on ’30’s delta influences. Rick Plourde on bass, and Joey Parfumi behind the kit join in with Chuck Whiting and John Wadkins on keys and Christina Lacoste on accordion and are tight and are all on the same page; and Ned even plays the banjo on a few cuts. What other group can you think of that has a slide guitarist who doubles on banjo? Joey Pafumi’s main gig is pounding for The Paul Nelson Band: Nelson was the long time second guitarist in Johnny Winter’s band and Joey is powerful and sharp as a tack. When the tack is attached to a bulldozer.
Check out: Ned’s dreamy instrumental ‘Through The Notch,’ and another instrumental ‘Hogg Wild,’ a song with both slide guitar and banjo that is like bluegrass only FASTER. Robbin Ford’s ‘Freedom,’ and the up-tempo Americana ‘Miles Per Hour’ with the nice piano that also features slide guitar and banjo in the same song. My favorite cuts are ‘A Second Line Procession- Amazing Grace/Gulf Of Slides’ that features the church tune done as a bluesy slide guitar song, their cover of the ’50’s instrumental ‘Sleepwalk’ by Santo and Johnny with the awesome accordion and screaming slide, and Jimi’s ‘Little Wing’ which they make a lot more bluesy and just explodes with his re-interpreting the composition using his slide. A great finger picking slide guitarist having fun with a great band.