My slowness in reviewing Mighty Sam McClain's latest release, One More Bridge To Cross, has been both good and bad. It has been bad because I have not had an opportunity to let people know just how good a recording One More Bridge To Cross actually is; offering a combination of blues, soul and gospel sounds, featuring Mighty Sam's fine vocals and an exceptional backing band. The good part of my tardiness is that I have gotten to listen to the CD more than I normally would for a review and I have also gotten to play the CD for some of my friends so that they could here the sweet sounds of Mighty Sam McClain first-hand.
Born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1943, Sam McClain grew up feeling the pain of doing without and offering an immense dedication to his chosen work as a musician so that he could become a success. After begin "discovered" by Producer/DJ, "Papa" Don Schroeder in 1966 and making his first successful recording, Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams," Mighty Sam followed a rough and rocky road that included stints in Nashville and New Orleans, working menial jobs and selling plasma while he was living on the streets trying to survive. By the mid-1980's, Sam was starting to get back on his feet with the assistance of the Neville Brothers and a successful tour and recording session in Japan. Since then, Sam has settled with his wife in Epping, New Hampshire, where he spends his precious spare time when he is not recording on the road with his band. One only has to experience a Mighty Sam McClain live performance to see his commitment to God, his music and his wife.
Nine of the thirteen songs on One More Bridge To Cross are penned by Mighty Sam with the other four by Joe Hardin (the opener, "Why Do We Have To Say Goodbye" and "Been There Done That"); one by guitarist Chris Tofield ("Don't Leave Me Behind"); and one by Chicago bluesman and trombonist James Montgomery ("If It Wasn't 4 Da Blues"). Depending on your listening interest, the CD really has something for just about everyone. Lovers of funk and funk blues will enjoy McClain's "Are You Ready For Love" and the strong cover of "If It Wasn't 4 Da Blues." If your interests lean more to the gospel sound, "Open Up Heaven's Door" will hit the spot. Those moved by more of a soul/r+b feel will love the opener "Why Do We Have To Say Goodbye" (reminiscent of Bobby "Blue" Bland) and the swampy sound of "Witness," another McClain original. Moving in another direction is the rockin' sound of "What's Your Name," featuring some powerful guitar by Chris Tofield. Finally, "The Other Man In the Band," is a powerful slow blues with great vocals and more exceptional guitar, expressing Sam's belief that Jesus is "the other man in the band." The CD closes with the title track, "One More Bridge to Cross," a fitting finale to an excellent recording and an indication that Mighty Sam as exactly what it takes to cross that final bridge. The finale includes some fine guitar and a powerful sax solo as the song crescendos to a gigantic finish.
Mighty Sam's band backs him up admirably, delivering the goods on every song. Along with "The Mighty Horns," Pat Herlehy (sax), Park Paquin (sax, trombone), and Trent Austin (trumpet); the band on One More Bridge To Cross includes Chris Tofield (guitar), Dave Smith (bass), Jim Arnold (drums), Barry Seelen (keyboards) and backing vocals by Conchetta Prio. To learn more about Mighty Sam McClain, his band and his recordings, visit the official website at www.mightysam.com and definitely pick up a copy of One More Bridge To Cross.
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