Hey, welcome back to the Juke Joint. I know the Professor’s been more than a little AWOL lately, and I apologize for that, but things got a little crazy for a couple of months and I was burning up a lot of gas and tire rubber running back and forth from here at the crossroads in Jordan’s Branch and Richmond.
See, I was in two holiday shows in Richmond so Mrs. Professor took on the brunt of running the Joint while I was busy playing Mr. Richmond Show Biz. The shows went well and now the red suit trimmed in white fur has gone back into hiding for another ten months or so and I can get back to the business of blues.
But first, a big thanks to Mrs. Professor for all of her assistance and to my blues radio partner Mr. Henry Cook for grabbing the reins of Time For The Blues while I was focused elsewhere. Can’t promise it won’t happen again, but I know if by some fluke some down-on-his/her-luck director needs a big hairy guy with a deep voice, well, I’m always interested in whatever doors the universe opens for me.
Our friends at Delmark sent in a really nice CD from Sharon Lewis & Texas Fire called The Real Deal. And let me tell you right now, Lewis IS the real deal. Her beautiful gospel tinged deep voice would bring a smile to a statue and should make your heart flutter. Her backing band includes Bruce James on guitar, Roosevelt Purifoy on piano and organ, Melvin Smith on bass, and Tony Dale on drums. Add to that some guest stars like Dave Specter on guitar, Billy Branch on harp, and a horn section comprised of Steve Berry on trombone, Hank Ford on tenor sax, and Jerry Dimuzio on baritone sax. Kenny Anderson played trumpet and did the horn arrangements. Backup vocals were provided by Bruce James, Tony Dale, and Deitra Farr.
Lewis kicks off the CD with one of her eight compositions, What’s Really Going On? She wants to know what’s happened to her country – a question many of us have been asking for many years. And not just for one administration either. Specter takes the guitar solo. The horns come out early for The Real Deal and sets up the song very nicely. Lewis answers her critics about what is and what isn’t the blues. When this lady talks, you should listen.
Do Something For Me moves us into some dark territory with Purifoy’s keys setting up a mood and Lewis’ vocals driving the song. That gospel fueled voice takes off and Specter’s guitar answers. Very solid side.
Van Morrison’s Crazy Love is a nice horn heavy song, reminiscent of Gladys Knight at her best. Lewis wrings out the emotion in the song and her mellow voice carries us into some amazing and erotic territory. Mother Blues starts out slow with James’ guitar laying down a nice line and then the song becomes something much deeper. This is the story of the way the blues takes over your life. Very powerful stuff and one with which many of us can identify.
Billy Branch adds his expert harp to Blues Train, a driving number that I can imagine working up a crowd like nobody’s business. This is a fun number that will definitely get your toes tapping and your butt shaking. Expect to hear this one on Time For The Blues very soon. While Please Mr. Jailer dates back to 1956, it could easily have been taken from today’s headlines. This one tears your heart out.
Mojo Kings again features Billy Branch on harp, and tells the story of the men that surround her that have the “magic touch.” It’s both an advertisement of the men and a warning to the women. Dave Specter adds his mellow jazz flavored guitar to Silver Fox. For those of us in the “more mature” category, we can identify with this sly wink of a song. You know the French say that the only difference between a 20-year old lover and a 70-year old lover is 50 years of experience.
I kind of like the French…
Specter hangs around to play guitar on You Can’t Take My Life. Lewis is in complete control of this song and it rocks and swings. Purifoy’s piano is solid and drives the action, trading licks with Specter like long time partners. Lewis’ take on Bill Withers’ classic Ain’t No Sunshine is strong and enjoyable. It’s difficult to take on such an iconic song, but Lewis’ approach is solid and the band is definitely up to the task.
While she’s covering some of the classics, Lewis takes on Don’t Play That Song done originally by BB King and later Aretha Franklin. Purifoy’s organ puts us smack in church and Lewis delivers some old time fervor and the pure emotion that her voice projects is great. This may anger a few of my purist friends, but to me, blues music is about the emotion – about the connection, not the chord progression and rhythm.
In other words, blues is in the eyes (and ears) of the beholder. And to me, this is the blues.
Lewis finishes up this strong CD with Angel, a slow building autobiographical ballad that can make a strong man weep. It’s a beautiful ending song and wraps up this wonderful CD on a high note.
Yeah, this is heavy rotation material and Sharon, you’ve got a permanent spot on the Juke Box.
Hope everyone has a great New Year, and if you’re coming here to celebrate, be responsible. Designate a driver or sleep on the floor. Jordan’s Branch doesn’t have a taxi service – yet – and we want to make sure you’re around for next year’s incredible collection of music.
(Photo of Sharon Lewis & Texas Fire The Real Deal was swiped from the web. If you’re the copyright holder and don’t want the free publicity, by all means let me know. I’ll take it down and put up a picture of my Aunt Edna instead. That’ll sell some records…)