Sam and Dave are alive and well in the soul of David “Chainsaw” Dupont whose latest offering, “Ghost Kings of Beale Street”, bellows a dance hall revival with a sense of humor. I gotta say that this one of the freshest offerings laid upon my doorstep in a while. Despite the fact that the sound and themes are nostalgic, it’s just a sound that we don’t hear much anymore from the Blues set. The songs roll along on this CD just like a full-fledged revue and it definitely screams “go see these guys play live”.
Steve Pasek co-wrote and produced this record at both Sun Studios in Memphis and Delmark in Chicago. I visited Sun Studios in Memphis and it’s definitely haunted with some great musical ghosts. Steve and Chainsaw do their best of leveraging those ‘ghosts’ on this record. James Lott, veteran of Sun Studios, engineered the basic tracks. The supporting cast includes some typical and unusual guests including Pastor Larry A. Brookins of the True Foundation Transformation Church in Chicago [unusual], Delmark’s Dave Specter on guitar for a few tracks, Patrick Dugan on “When Its Sweet” and Omar Coleman on harp [more typical]. Providing backing vocals throughout the CD is OnJaLee who provides a very fine feminine contrast to Chainsaw’s masculine approach to his songs. I especially like the credits on the album to Thelonius Assaut III for “shouts” and “party favors”.
Chainsaw leads the way of the band with lead vocals and guitar. Chainsaw’s core band is called the “Blues Warriors” and features Jack “Jungle Dog” Baker on Lakland bass and shouts, Christopher Robertson on drums, backing vocals and shouts, Patrick Dugan on piano, guitar, backing vocals, shouts. The Chain Gang provides horns by Brennan Connors (saxophones) and Julian Harris (trumpet and flugelhorn), but no shouts (I guess their mouths are occupied most of the time so they can’t shout). However, the horns shout throughout this CD, kicking ass most of the way.
Even with the consistent Blues and Soul revue feel of this album, there’s enough variety to never, ever be bored with it. Each song has its own identity. “Invisible Man” has that Sam and Dave revue sound as does “Bluesomatic” and “King of My Heart”. “Sinners Or Saints” has a gospel revival feel as does “The Flood”, which starts out with a very tasty acoustic Blues intro. “Never Know” brings to mind two bands – Rare Earth and the Ike Willis-led Frank Zappa band of the 80’s. “King of My Heart” and “When It’s Sweet” emphasize how Chainsaw got his name. Things slow down a bit with “Back Again from Gone”, a very soft ballad.
I can’t help but draw a line from Chainsaw on this CD to Barrington Levy, the dancehall inspiration behind Slightly Stoopid and Sublime. Chainsaw takes Barrington the other way though, without the ska and reggae and emphasizes the dancehall feel and girth to Levy’s music and performance.
“Ghosts of Beale Street” is part of a trilogy of CDs put out by Chainsaw and co-written and produced by Steve Pasek. Each CD is unique in style and production. Chainsaw’s first CD of the trilogy is a Chicago Blues-centered effort called “Lake St. Lullaby” and the second is “Bourbon Street Breakdown”, a New Orleans-flavored offering. Pasek claims that “Ghosts” is the pinnacle of the trilogy accomplishing what he and David Dupont set out to do with the album. However, of the three albums, I found the strongest, most interesting offering to be the second CD, “Bourbon Street Breakdown”. The thread between all three CDs are Chainsaw’s rhythm guitar and vocals and Pasek’s somewhat profound lyrics. They are thematically tied together if one wants to take the time to study the song correlations between the set. All three are well worth the price of admission.
David Dupont is probably one of the youngest Blues artists to have migrated from Mississippi where he grew up picking cotton. His tough childhood growing up in the South draws parallels to many other great artists including B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and many other Blues greats. He was attracted to the Blues by the regular performances of his two cousins who played guitars that were usually missing most of the strings. Their playing inspired him to beg for a toy guitar and led him to eventually get serious about the instrument. After running away from Mississippi at age 14 to find his father, he ended up living with his brother in Chicago for a couple of years. He left Chicago and for several years wandered and performed between New Orleans, Houston and Atlanta. Along the way, he had close encounters and took advice from Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy and Jimmy Thackery. Like most Blues musicians David paid his dues and struggled to make ends meet. Finally, he and Steve Pasek, producer and agent, hooked up and as a result have co-written and produced three very fine albums.
“Ghost Kings of Beale Street” is a good introduction to Chainsaw Dupont and the Blues Warriors. If you like what you hear, buy the trilogy and have a complete set. The band has just kicked off a tour to support the new release, visit http://www.chainsawDupont.com for more information.
About the author: Dave Glynn, frontman for the Empty Can Band found at www.EmptyCanBand.com, regularly writes reviews for BadDogBlues.com and MNBlues.com.