Arsen Shomakhov



Arsen Shomakhov Visit Arsen Shomakhov's Web Site

For lots of reasons, blues music got a late start in Russia.  Ever mindful of corrupting Western influence, the Soviet censorship endeavored for decades to protect the cultural virginity of the population by severely restricting contact with certain foreign musics media.  When Gorbachev’s perestroika brought these barriers down, a powerful movement of youth protest appeared, organized around rock’n’roll.  Although a few bands performed the type of blues that they had heard on British recordings - Eric Clapton, early Fleetwood Mac, and so forth - they were generally regarded as rockers rather than as bluesmen.  But after communism, that movement disintegrated, and the various musics within it - blues among them - began to precipitate out as distinct forms with their own performers and audiences.  Since that time, the music has developed from mimicry of British blues-rock, to a replication of what Russians call the “classical blues” of the Delta and postwar Chicago, to the production of a blues that is increasingly identifiable as “Russian”.     

Arsen Shomakhov’s musical career would be a singular example of this larger pattern.  His band, Ragtime, began with a mixture of rock, jazz and blues in the late eighties, converted to covering straight blues material in the early nineties and, by the end of the decade, was adding more and more original numbers (Arsen’s) to its repertoire.  The culmination of that journey has led to this CD, all of whose tracks were composed by Arsen himself.     

The range of styles included here - pretty much every blues form except the country, bottle-neck variety - handsomely showcases Arsen’s talents.  His throaty yet smooth vocals particularly impress on [ name songs that appear as tracks #2, #3 and #8], leaving listeners with no clue that they are hearing a non-native English speaker working in an foreign idiom.  His piercing guitar runs a gamut of inflections from funk to jazz to country-western, while never straying outside the borders of the blues itself.  This CD also represents an evolution in his tone which now sports an unmistakable twanginess in both the upper and lower registry (check out the licks on track #4).  Throughout, Arsen is ably supported by Bek Mamyshe on drums and Aslan Zhantuyev on bass.   

Arsen and his band spent over a decade in their native town of Nal’chik in Russia’s remote North Caucasus, honing the craft as bluesmen despite the fact that their geographic isolation meant that there was effectively no chance to perform in public.  Their commitment to their music eventually paid off, thrusting Arsen into the top ranks of players in Moscow’s sizeable blues scene.  This CD now makes his music available to an international audience, reversing the pattern of cultural imports by sending the blues back to us, from Russia with love.
- Michael Urban, Author of RUSSIA GETS THE BLUES

 1. Dangerous   3:37
 2. Too Hot   3:31
 3. Let Me Be Your Romeo   4:03
 4. You’re The One   3:20
 5. Low Down Shakin' Chill   3:30
 6. Troublemaker   3:54
 7. Rainy Drive   2:57
 8. Use What You Got   3:54
 9. The Arsonist   2:18
 10. Don’t Miss Your Train   3:01
11. Highway Cruise   4:40
12. I Don’t Know    5:00
13. Beale Street Boogie   3:10

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