The resonator guitar was conceived in the early part of the last century, with the focus on allowing the sonic space and volume to compete with other instruments in a live setting. Before electricty, the guitar was the quiet instrument in the band, often needing placement at the front of all instruments during live performance and phonograph recordings. Louis Armstrong would render the stringed, Spanish instument pointless on his Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, as his horn's volume was simply no match. Well, necessity being the mother of all invention, and the guitarists' ego being determined as it always has been, the resonator was born.
Resonators edged their way into relevance, finding an undeniable home on the backs of street musicians whose audible reach now extended blocks, Embraced by classic blues musicians like Son House and Bo Carter, the instrument buried itself in the mud of the Mississippi Delta, tying itself to a what became a sneeze in antiquity. Thomas Edison, with the help of amplifier god Jim Marshall, would eventually,petrify it there, with his switches and glowing transisitors. Regardless, the resonator's place in musical – and blues – history was solidified.
Today, a faithful few continue its legacy. They are the teachers, the masters and keepers of sweltering Souther nights past. Among them, East Chicago's, Catfish Keith, a formidable abecedary who has performed with a laundry list of blues greats ranging from John Lee Hooker to Taj Mahal to Leo Kottke, qualifying him as one of the coolest motherfuckers on this god-forsaken rock. His most recent release, Put on a Buzz, is a testament to his craft, and a qualifier to his abilities and tastes.
Catfish winds his way through blues's garden of eden, providing a flippant offering to 'come bite the apple.' His manner of playing is as playful and poigniant as his predecessors, his lyrical style as quirky as Tom Waits or Warren Zevon. The record's title track, Put on a Buzz, is a drunken hobo's jig, as he finishes his last sip of gin. Songs like "Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues" and "Grasshopper in my Pillow" are practical meditations on the delta, while "Sigh of the Wippoorwill" and Leadbelly's "On A Monday" cuts through the soul. And it continues throughout the fourteen song set.
And through artists like Catfish, history is preserved, with the zest and soul prerequisite to pass on the grist and gruel, turning a seemingly harsh instrument into a gorgeous purveyor of emotion. And if you feel the blues, nothing can be more valuable. Catfish is a living national treasure, in that respect, and his own resonance is as authentic as it gets.