Taking their name from the venue where they started out as the house band, Ontario's Odyssey Blues Band have recorded an excellent debut that does indeed 'borrow' the blues. Yet while the playlist consists exclusively of covers that have largely been done to death, they manage to breathe new life into even the most shop-worn of chestnuts. The result is a collection both familiar and fresh, with personality and passion to spare.
The moniker reads "featuring Suzanne Hyatt," and with only one instrumental in the batch she's deservedly front and centre. Equally at ease with sassy shout or sultry purr, Suzanne's able to emulate her idols (Bonnie Raitt, Koko Taylor, Etta James) without stooping to mere imitation. The timbre may be familiar, but there's never a doubt the voice is hers; a professional singer for over 25 years, she claims each and every tune as hers alone.
Being a house band, of course, generally involves supporting guests. Several return the favour here, helping to elevate this outing well above the pack. The guitar interplay between the band's own Ed Pryla and Steve Grisbook, John Bride, and Eddie Baltimore (also responsible for recording & mixing) is full of unexpected twists and turns, rendering this a fretman's dream. Nothing "wankish" about it, though, as all play with unerring taste and restraint.
Also on hand is harmonica virtuoso Jerome Godboo, whose contributions are a highlight throughout, alternating between a clear, delicate tone and thick, raw power. A frontman himself, he duets with Suzanne on "Bring It On Home," the result a friendly give-and-take leading to a rollicking conclusion.
Not surprisingly, Suzanne's forced to gender-reverse tunes usually done from the male perspective; hence "Lollipop Daddy," more commonly known as "Lollipop Mama" (swings just as hard, though!), and "Hoochie Coochie Gal," which she handles with all the ballsy bluster required. Suzanne's take on Nina Simone's "Do I Move You" smolders with raw sensuality, while "Beer Bottle Boogie" equals Koko's original for good-hearted raunch; and woe betide those who don't measure up to the defiant challenge of "Love Me Like A Man." "Hurt So Bad" is a great piece of swamp-pop, Ms. Hyatt's passionate pleading nothing less than spine-tingling; "Black Drawers" (sic) is an invitation few could resist, and benefits mightily from organ work by another guest, Meher Steinberg. Proceedings close with "Jeff's Boogie," a ferocious instrumental from the pen of Mr. Beck.
The rhythm section, bassist Dave Mullen and Rick "Preacher Boy" Scriver, is rock-solid throughout, and production is more than adequate (typical of indie releases, it lacks only the 'oomph' that big budgets buy). Packaging won't win awards, but hey, it's what's inside that counts, and what's inside is tasty indeed.
Not essential, but a fine outing nonetheless.
Odyssey Blues Band
5717 Dorchester Rd., Niagara Falls, ON L2G 5S5
Phone: 905-357-6147 or 905-351-8889
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