Friday, January 20, 2017

Tom Craig Says Get Ready For Me

I really enjoyed this debut album from Philadelphia native Tom Craig and his band, Soul Patch. When I think of Philadelphia, there’s a great soul and funk tradition that comes to mind and I was eager to see what, if any, influence could be heard in this work.
Get Ready For Me does have some fun elements of funk, and while it’s deeply rooted in the blues, it’s at its best when Craig uses his jazzy vocals and applies them to pure soul. I just reread that sentence and while it’s clumsily written, the intent becomes clear once you listen to some of his music.
I love soul. I love soul that uses a saxophone to punctuate the song with either punches or that low moaning that denotes loss. If one saxophone is your thing, Craig uses four different players: Vince Gleason on tenor; Skyler Hagner and Mark Gallagher on baritone; and Dan Young on alto.
The other players on the album include Craig on guitar; John O’Connell on drums; Rando Branning on bass; Eric Johnson on organ; and Sean McCusker on trombone. Special guests are Mikey Jr. on two songs adding his backing vocals and harp and Dave Gross on four songs providing bass, and backing vocals. His other contribution is “barista,” so I guess that means he makes a mean cup of coffee. Extremely important during the recording process!
Let’s give this brand new album and quick listen and see how Craig and Company deliver.
We get a nice crunchy start to the album with Louita, a funky number that makes you want to move. It’s got a good groove and the sax solo works very well. I’m generally a sucker for a good horn section, and this one sounds very good.
Next up is that question nearly every man has asked at one time or another, How Did I Break The Rules. It has a slower tempo and the horns start off in a lower register that underlies the darker mood of the song. And we all know the answer to this question is, “If I have to tell you, you’ll never understand.”
Craig and Soul Patch reach down for the soul infused Get Ready For Me. O’Connell’s drums are very inventive and Eric Johnson’s organ work holds the song together. Craig’s vocals and guitar lead are very good.
The next cut, Can’t Stop Thinking About You, features Mikey Jr.’s fine muted harmonica work. It’s a nice funky blues number that could very easily get some extended air play. I would love to see them perform this one live.
Oh, the slower paced She Did It To Me (She’ll Do It To You) is a gem. This is a song built around pure pain and emotion. It’s a great she done me wrong song and the distant solo sax gives it a strong edge. Love this one.
There’s a nice Sam Cooke intro to Ballroom Dancer and it makes the song feel like classic soul. It’s a good sound and this is where the group is at its strongest; creating that feeling is not easy and they do it very well.
With a title like Captain Funk, you know you’re going to get a strong bluesy groove, and Craig and Soul Patch deliver just that. This is not a subtle love tune, this is a call to get down! So, listen to Captain Funk and get moving already…
We’re back into that classic soul territory with Please Forgive Me Baby. Craig does a great job channeling the greats in the field and still somehow making his own sound unique.
The group picks up the tempo with Tornado. This one’s got a driving beat and Eric Johnson’s keys mix very well with the horns and give it a feeling of a more optimistic approach to the done me wrong scenario. Don’t discount Craig’s guitar though, it really picks the song up further.
I Can’t Help Myself starts off with a swinging intro and this is the one song that features both Dave Gross and Mikey Jr. It’s a fun song and Craig’s blue eyed soul vocals are good. One of the best on the album. They keep the funky swing going on Nothing That A Man Can’t Do. The combination of these two songs back to back is very good. Craig is at his vocal best on these types of songs and it’s a real pleasure to listen to their take on these.
The album closes with Every Woman, a very cool soul ballad that takes you back to some of those great late ‘50’s to mid ‘60’s anthems. I love this number and it’s a beautiful way to close out this exciting debut.

I don’t have a whole lot of information to pass along just yet. Hopefully we’ll have a website in order to find out where Tom Craig and Soul Patch will be performing. I think they would be great at festivals, and frankly I can’t wait to catch them live. If they are half the performers in person as they are on this disc, that’s going to be a helluva show!

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