In the world of blues music there are the low-down blues, the dirty blues, even the downright funny blues. On his latest release Big Dave McLean kicks off the album with what could be best described as “the snarling pissed-off blues.” On the lead track “Tough Times,” McLean is unemployed. Is he depressed? Damn straight, and he’s gonna get in somebody’s face about it. He isn’t singing in the voice of a man resigned to his situation. No, he rails against it with the rage of one about to go postal. Time to lock the door and call in the dogs.
Tinsley Ellis' gritty guitar graces Tough Love, as the veteran bluesman wrestles with the passive-aggressive nature of relationships on his new release.
Ellis is up and down, but who isn’t these days? I mean, let’s face it, relationships are hard work and force us, if we are willing to grow, to do a lot of self-evaluation. Sacrificing one’s own desires, at times, for the sake of the union, isn’t easy and goes against our nature. If we are fortunate, we find ourselves in relationship with someone who is willing to give in kind. Tinsley Ellis tackles the thorny questions and challenges that test us to the core.
A lot of players like to push the riff, driving the song, putting the energy on the front end. If that suits the song, then all is well. By contrast, it is a real treat to find an artist who knows how to lay into the groove, riding on backbeat, finding the core of the song and working it from the inside out. Brad Absher brings a lazy summer sensibility to his new album, Lucky Dog, easing into this solid set of tunes, forcing nothing, like a stone-faced gambler keeping his hand close and thinking, ”Wait until you see what I’m about to throw down.”
Brad Absher, with his soulful Gulf Coast blues and R&B, blows in like a tropical depression, making landfall with his debut cd on Montrose Records. Absher, a fixture on the on the Gulf scene for over twenty years, brings the steam and heat with a slow burning collection split evenly between originals and choice covers.
Backed by Swamp Royale, his superb six-piece band, Absher brings swagger, sensitivity, a greasy guitar style, and a voice aged in Kentucky Bourbon to bear on a dozen tracks that blend soul, blues, and R&B. The album opens with “Woman Who Loves Me,” celebrating the joy of relationship. As Absher says, “I’m gonna keep it that way, I know what it’s like to live the other way.” The horns accentuate the song as Absher lays down a nasty underpinning on guitar.
One of my favorite tracks is “I Need a Drink.” Not your typical drinking-her-off-my-mind-song, Absher settles for reflection in the wake of a failed relationship:
I Need a Drink
I need some time
A quiet place where I can ease my mind
I really don’t have any kind of plan
I’m just gonna try to come out of this a better man
The album showcases the solid backing band Absher has built during his time gigging around the Gulf. There are soulful horn parts, especially the sexy sax on the cover of Bill Withers’ “Same Love,” a song that features a vocal worthy of comparison to the original. And then there is Absher’s sensual deep growl on “Wanna Be Your Man,” another Absher composition. The traditional “Jesus on the Mainline,” brings us to church, and features the righteous Hammond organ work of Barry Seelen, playing off of the unrepentant slide guitar of Brad Absher.
All in all this is a really enjoyable album and representative of the region’s musical melting pot. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.
J.M. McSpadden III is a writer and roots music enthusiast who believes every road trip is an opportunity for the full- tilt boogie.