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IRONING BOARD SAM - The Human Touch [REVIEW - Blues Revue]

Orleans OR-1711

Born in Rockhill, South Carolina, in 1939, Sammie Moore (a.k.a. "Ironing Board Sam") has not been as successful as he deserves to be. He auditioned for Stax and Hi Records in 1959, but both turned him down. He recorded one session for Chess Records, but they didn't ask him back for a second. After working Waterloo, Iowa, Moore moved to Los Angeles, where he cut numerous one-off singles that went nowhere. In 1974, he moved to New Orleans, where he began playing a regular gig at Mason's VIP lounge, but he lost that job as well.

In the early '80s, Moore became "The Human Jukebox," playing fans' requests from inside a cardboard replica of a jukebox. This gimmick brought him attention from the Real People television program, attention that procured him bookings in New Orleans clubs in which he continues to perform today.

In 1995, Moore recorded The Human Touch. On most of the record, he sounds like legendary New Orleans pianist James Booker. Backed by guitarist Earl Stanley and drummer Michael Voelker, Moore often plays triplets and arpeggios on his electric piano, and his heartfelt vocals and personal lyrics add greatly to the music.

On the touching "Ironing on the Baby Grand," Moore describes how his family discouraged him from playing music, how he was "dancing and prancing" as his stepmother ironed. "Now my whole family's gone to a peaceful place," he relates, "and I'm the one who's ironing on the grand piano." With "Wino," Moore conveys what it sounds like to be rejected, something that he has himself heard all too often. "You ain't nothing but a wino," he sneers, "get out, stay out."

On some selections, Moore successfully steers away from Booker's New Orleans sound. His band gets ragged on "Jealous Hearted Man" a Chicago-blues-style tune that resembles "Hooch Coochie Man."

"The Human Touch" offers a gospel chord progression, gospel vocals, and a church organ, with Moore urging the listener to "shake a hand, shake a hand." He turns the traditional Irish number "Oh Danny Boy" into a soulful gospel rave up à la Ray Charles, complete with call and response as well as falsetto vocals. Another tune with gospel chords, "Bound To Get There," contains wah-wah guitar and sounds like the work of Curtis Mayfield, right down to the optimism expressed by its lyrics.

With a great album like The Human Touch under his belt, Ironing Board Sam should be optimistic. Let's hope it wins him the recognition he deserves so he can "get there."

---Jordan Kessler


Originally published in Blues Revue [June/July 1996], Issue #23, pg. 89


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