If there was any doubt that John Cusatis was a school teacher, one need only read his thank-you notes inside the disc, where, amid the acknowledgements appears the name Richard Brautigan. Memories of 10th grade American Literature class! Over the past several years, Cusatis, a native of Pennsylvania, has made a name for himself around Charleston with his unique brand of "barroom rock 'n' roll" in which he stands with an acoustic guitar and literally inflicts his act upon the audience by filling their hands with washboards, bongos, maracas, and anything else that remotely hints at percussion. Although many of Cusatis' shows are filled with popular rock songs to which the crowds can easily play along, this entire disc was composed by Cusatis.
The CD opens with Cusatis' trademark song, "Reggae Bubba," previously featured on the CMA Compilation CD and also on a prior limited-edition Cusatis CD. The new album also includes an "unplugged" version of this song. Three other songs that appeared on Cusatis' limited-edition CD, "Stickman," "Couldn't Love You," and "Old Grand Dad," are also included here. Cusatis pays homage to one of his regular gigs with "41 S. Market Streeet," a Bo Diddley style tribute to Backstage Deli. As in the live shows, Cusatis supplements the band here by including an array of colleagues. Among the guests are the entire lineup of Cotton Blue --Rob Posey (lead Guitar, harmonica), Debbie Pasek (bass), Tommy Nolen (drums); Big Stoner Creek's Hawke Morffi (mandolin, fiddle, African drum); The Tropicools' Graham Finch (congas) and Jeff Houts (acoustic lead guitar), and a series of guest vocalists and percussionists.
However, the disc is different from many of his live interactive performances. Whereas the club gigs can get pretty loud and hoarse, many of these tracks are more introspective, with more of a focus on lyrics and melody. Ironically, the song "Contemplative Man" is in fact one of the rowdier tributes to the bottle. A nice instrumental track, "Dove Sounds" is also included (Cusatis and company performed this live in the 96Wave studios during a recent Wave-a-Thon), and for anyone who's seen his shows, the infamous "What the **** Man" is included as a hidden track. This disc is an excellent collection of Cusatis originals, but it's really only half the story. If you haven't seen the live show, you really ought to at least once. And if you have seen the live show, you really ought to own the disc. Ask your local record store to get it if they don't have it.