The Blue Rider Trio: Jeff Sarli (acoustic bass); Mark Wenner, Ben Andrews.
Personnel: Ben Andrews (vocals, guitar); Mark Wenner (harmonica).
Additional personnel: Larry Willis (piano).
Liner Note Author: Pierre M. Sprey.
Recording information: Mapleshade studio (??/1988-01/2000).
Photographers: Sam Holden; Eldon Baldwin.
Early Morning Blues combines the Blue Rider Trio's two albums, 1991's Preachin' the Blues and 2000's Harp, Steel and Guts, in one package, essentially creating a complete recorded works set for this fervent but hardly innovative Maryland acoustic blues ensemble. Featuring Ben Andrews on vocals, acoustic guitar and National Steel guitar, Mark Wenner of the Nighthawks on harmonica, and Jeff Sarli of Big Joe & the Dynaflows on acoustic bass (with Larry Willis sitting in occasionally on piano), the Blue Riders take their Delta, Piedmont, and Texas country blues roots very seriously, but unfortunately they add little to the tradition they try so hard to re-create. It's not that anything here is badly done (a slowed down version of Leadbelly's "Gallows Pole," a straight lift of Mississippi John Hurt's "Stackolee," and an approximation of Rev. Gary Davis' "Death [Don't] Have No Mercy" are all more than admirable); it's just that these tracks were probably a whole lot more fun to perform than they are to listen to, no matter how well these three college white guys do the old blues guy routine. Still, if you need a Blue Rider Trio collection, everything they ever did is here. ~ Steve Leggett