Sometimes you just get a craving for a certain style of music. Maybe it’s Chicago hard style blues, or West Coast swing, or even a trip to the Delta for that stripped down back to basics sound. Lately I’ve been desirous of a little New Orleans Gumbo. You know that music – a sweet mélange of boogie mixed with blistering runs on guitar or piano, the kind of music that you know will trigger a night to remember.
Fortunately, I just received a copy of Keith Stone’s CD THE PRODIGAL RETURNS which satisfies my musical cravings, and then some. Stone is a guitar virtuoso with a solid voice and a backing band that can take him into just about any corner of The Crescent City with gusto. Whether he’s blowing out the walls with solid boogie or breaking your heart with a power ballad, you feel his emotion and skill.
Stone has written eight of the eleven songs on the album, another was written by his bandmate and producer David Hyde, and two are Public Domain songs that bracket the CD. Aside from Stone handling the guitar and vocals on the album, his band consists of Hyde on bass; Nelson Blanchard on drums, organ, and piano; Lacy Blackledge on trumpet; Mike Broussard on saxophone; Bobby Henderson on alto sax; and special guests include Dr. John on piano; Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes on accordion; Andy J. Forest on frottoir and cow bell; Joe Krown on organ; and vocals by Elaine Foster.
Stone opens with a Prelude of Just A Closer Walk With Thee to give us the feel of walking a body to its final resting place complete with a dirge-like tempo and horses’ hoof beats on pavement, this quick sample raises the question “who are we putting to rest?” Hopefully we’ll find out.
Things get going with Better Things To Do mixing the hot horn section with Stone’s guitar. We’re quickly into a more festive mood with a solid number that can get people to move around. This is a good opening song and I’m sure it gets a great response live.
He slows things down considerably with First Love, an aching power ballad fueled by Stone’s guitar work. His voice is a deep growl here as he searches for his first love and he is crying out to the heavens to help him find it. This is a powerful song.
Cindi Leigh is a fun bouncy song with a nice accordion in the background. This is obviously an homage to the most important woman in Stone’s life. It has some decent lyrics and solid guitar fills. We’ll be playing this on Time For The Blues.
Next up is perhaps my favorite song on the album, Take Me Home. It’s hard not to love this tribute to his home of New Orleans. If you have never longed to be back in the place where you grew up, count yourself lucky. This is the kind of place that once it gets into your soul, it never leaves.
There’s a little Doo Wop feel to New Orleans Moonlight, a late night close-the-place down kind of song. It has some nice backing vocals and understated instrumentation. It’s a good song to follow Take Me Home.
Stone picks up the pace with Time To Move On. He tells the story of how it’s time for him to pick himself up, read the writing on the wall, and get to stepping. Sometimes we just can’t see the signs and act on them, but he’s got a clear look at the future. The band is tight and the groove is solid.
The pace increases even more with Make Me Feel Alright. This is dance territory and the song has an infectious hook that makes you want to jump up and shake whatever you got. This has got to be a great song when performed live – you can just hear the places where you know the band launches into some extended solos.
Buster’s Place takes us into a mythical nightclub with its ambient noise and extended horn opening and musical riffs. This instrumental was written by Hyde and he’s got a good ear for tone. I like the song and it has some nice jazz flavors mixed in with the blues.
The final original track, the title song The Prodigal Returns tells Stone’s story from his birth in New Orleans to his return and his desire to plant his feet and sample all the elements of the city’s music. It’s a good number and his guitar sings loudest on this song.
He closes the album with a great jam on Just A Closer Walk With Thee. The gospel is sincere, voices soar and the musicians pour their heart and soul into the number. Dr. John’s piano rings out and drives the song while Stone’s guitar provides the pyro. You can feel yourself lost in the music and immediately want to listen again. Go ahead, it’s a terrific album and just hits the spot.
For more information about Keith Stone and where you can catch him live, be sure to check out http://www.keithstonemusic.com/. If you can’t make it to Mardi Gras, this is a great way to get your New Orleans fix.
(Picture of Keith Stone was borrowed from his website. If you are the copyright holder and want it removed, please contact us and we'll do it. We might say bad things about Po' Boy Sandwiches, but we'll do it...)