Mighty Sam McClain
One More Bridge to Cross
by Mark E. Gallo
Review date: November 2003
"Keeping the Blues Alive Award"|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by The Blues Foundation
Sam McClain’s last couple of releases on Telarc were splendid and helped put the veteran back in the limelight. This debut effort on his own label is not only the most moving collection of music he’s ever released, it’s one of the finest examples of southern deep soul/blues released in years. Its also one of the standout discs of this young year. To call McClain the best blues voice this side of Bobby Bland in his prime is to state the obvious. He drips emotion throughout this superb 13-tune collection of mostly originals. Opening with Joe Hardin’s slow blues “Why Do We Have To Say Goodbye,” buoyed by Chris Tofield’s sweetly emotive guitar, Sam coaxes a tear and wrenches at the heart. When he sings “If I told you not to worry, would you listen/If I told you that sometimes you need to kneel and pray” (“Witness”), you know he’s telling the truth. Maybe not his, but imbued with the reality of love’s struggles nonetheless. “Open Up Heaven’s Door” is a glimpse of McClain’s spiritual side. His albums have always taken the listener back to church, and this is no exception. There’s never been a conflict between the secular and religious. Indeed, he can combine them comfortably, as he does on “Most of All,” on which he sings “Thank you for believing in my God, but most of all I thank you for believing in me.” Tofield’s guitar here is again exquisite. On his “What’s Your Name,” the band fires up on a medium tempo groove and on “Thought I Heard Your Voice” the tempo is spiced up with Barry Seelen’s greasy organ and Pat Herleby’s fat tenor. The power chords come out on the intro to “The Other Man In The Band” on which Sam sings “Sometimes when I do my music/it just don’t turn out right/No matter how hard I try/I just can’t seem to see the light/I really love this music”). Whatever the groove, Mr. McClain remains mighty. Chris Tofield contributes “Don’t Leave Me Behind” (“Some things I’ve done in life I do regret, but tell me Lord there is hope for me yet”), a song that McClain injects with his heart, and on the closing title piece, the horn section funks it up behind one of the best set of pipes in America. Sam gives the band plenty of space and they’re worthy of the gig.
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