The premise behind this outing is sound; it’s a look back to the days when the 45 (that’s a single, 45 rpm record for the youngsters out there) ruled, when friends would get together to share those short, sweet blasts of soul and rock ‘n’ roll. It was a time when music wasn’t categorized by demographic marketing to the most minute detail, and only one thing mattered – was it good or not?
The execution is nothing short of stellar, no surprise given the participants’ varied histories. Tommy Castro has forged an extremely successful career purveying a slick mix of soul and blues, Lloyd Jones has been a fixture in the Northwest for many years (he released a fine outing on Blind Pig a few years back), and Jimmy Hall cut his teeth in seminal southern blooze-rockers Wet Willie.
Yet while their names are on the marquee, of equal importance are the contributions from one of the best rhythm sections in the business – Double Trouble, the justly famed core of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s old band, featuring drummer Chris Layton, bassist Tommy Shannon, and Reese Wynans on keys.
Telarc took a hands-off approach to the sessions, inviting all to bring in their favourite songs, with house producer Randy Labbe simply allowing proceedings to unfold. Which they do in a loose, joyous, and thoroughly celebratory manner.
The trio are responsible for all but a couple of the disc’s eleven tracks, with Jones’ rollicking “Sometimes” providing a fitting opener. “If That Ain’t Love,” punctuated by Hall’s spare harmonica, is pure, driving R&B; it’s followed by Mr. Castro’s sizzling take on B. B. King’s “Be Careful With A Fool.” This one’s often associated with Johnny Winter, whose incendiary version proved definitive; Tommy here proves every bit Johnny’s equal, his searing licks augmented by more of Hall’s harp. Jones turns Lennon & McCartney’s “Help” into a slow burner that may well be the disc’s highlight; Hall’s saxophone powers both his own “Whole Lotta Soul” and the James Brown chestnut “Good Good Lovin,” on which all three gravel-voiced veterans trade verses. Jones tackles “Raised In The Country,” an easy-going shuffle, before Castro turns up the heat with a Texas-style “Mammer Jammer.” “Midnight To Daylight” could well provide the dictionary definition of a ‘soul-blues hybrid,’ not so much straddling the line between the two as blurring it into irrelevancy, and proving once again that quality, not categorization, is all that really matters. Things come to a close with “Cold Funk,” a slinky workout that originated with an impromptu jam in the studio; it sounds as though Mr. Labbe simply left the tape running to capture three veterans at their spontaneous best. It’s not the disc’s strongest track, but it does stand as a testament to the power of musical collaboration.
Telarc is well known for pristine sound – at times a little to clean for blues – but the sound here is nice and dirty, with satisfyingly sweaty, live-off-the-floor feel that’s just right.
This one’s a keeper!
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