Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tangled With In Layman Terms

This is an album for which I have been waiting a long time. I’ve known the brother and sister duo of Cole and Logan Layman for several years and have had the pleasure of seeing them live on several occasions as well as listening to their early EPs, and even had them live on Time For The Blues.
When I heard that they were going to put TANGLED, I was excited for them, and when I heard that they were going to raise the necessary capital via crowdsourcing methods, I was equally impressed by their efforts.
If you haven’t got them live at either a club or a festival, these young guns of the blues are about 18 and 15 years old and they play like they’ve been in the business 40 years or more. Cole is a guitar wizard of the first order who drives the music and his younger sister Logan has great chops on the bass. But it’s her voice – oh my God that voice - that sounds like it’s connected to all the great blues singers of the past and you just can’t believe that this incredible voice is coming out of a barely five feet tall teenager.
As good as this album is, and it’s very good, it’s almost a disservice to the pair as you can’t see them. They are not just good musicians with a voice that comes along maybe once in a generation, no, they are entertainers who will put on a great show while they have fun playing.
There are nine songs on the CD; five were written by the duo under the band’s name, two are written by songwriter Holly Montgomery, and one each by Howlin’ Wolf and Janis Joplin. Cole and Logan carried the bulk of the music on guitars and bass along with Logan’s vocals, but they were helped out by producer Ron Lowder Jr on drums and various other instruments; Brian Kloppenburg on keys and organ; Ron Lowder Sr on tenor sax; Rick Thomasson and Mike Wholley on trumpet; Russ Robertson on trombone; and Jack Campbell on harmonica.
The band opens with the title track, Tangled, and producer Lowder has added a solid horn section. I’ve heard this song stripped down, but never with the fatter Chicago sound. It handles the translation, but I might have saved it until later in the album. Still it’s a driving song and one that would definitely get an audience moving.
You get a feel for the power in Logan’s voice with the ballad Fake It ‘Til I Make It. This is late night smoky nightclub territory with just the singer holding onto the microphone and spilling her heart to the audience. Cole takes a hot break and gives the song a real edge. It’s a good number.
The next song is the swinging Don’t Even Try, and you can hear Logan double tracking her voice to give the feel of background singers. It’s a solid driving song that gets to the audience and keeps them moving around the dance floor. Nice organ break – something that I’ve never heard at any Layman’s show. It’s a good touch.
Cole’s guitar opens up Heartbroken with a real Texas feel to it. This is a very good honkytonk song that would get just about any group worked up. Logan’s vocals bring it home and it sounds like she’s just toying with her audience while letting them know she’s in charge. At least until the guitar break.
Things slow down on I’m Not Ready, but the band keeps the intensity high. This is another one of Logan’s best vocal interpretations. She really seems to be mature beyond her years and she’s in total command of the lyrics. A very good song.
So many artists have covered Howling Wolf’s classic Smokestack Lightning, and the Layman’s have managed to tap into something primal with their interpretation. I’ve seen them perform this live on a number of occasions, including once on Time For The Blues. I’ve always enjoyed their playful nature with the song. Logan gets a chance to amp up her bass for this number and it adds a sense of urgency to the song. Virginia Beach harmonica guru Jack Campbell adds a lot of flavor to the song.

The next couple of songs are Layman originals, starting off with the swinging Won’t Let It. Logan shows off some jazzy approaches on this song and Cole has some fun on it as well. The next song, Karma, is a kick ass driving number that really shows what the team is capable of doing. Cole wails on a cigar box guitar and Logan’s vocals are in top form. Great song, and will probably be one of their signature numbers for a long while.
They end the album with Janis Joplin’s Move Over. As you might suspect, it rocks and is a great follow up to the previous song. Logan is once again in total control of the vocals and Lowder Jr’s drums give the song a driving backbeat. Cole’s break is the sound of a top musician at the end of the night showing the audience he’s still got a lot more in the tank.
This self-released album is a lot of fun and delivers in a big way while promising that much more is waiting from the Laymans. They are still experimenting, still growing, and I fully expect that they will become a driving force for the blues.
Check out this first album, and find out all sorts of information from their web site I was fortunate enough to get an early copy of the album for review purposes, and it will be available shortly if it’s not out already. While you’re checking out the website, check their appearances as with Cole about to start college, school year gigs might be difficult to find, but you know they will be in many of the major festivals during the summer months.

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