Every so often I get to sneak under the tent flaps when nobody’s looking. When I do, it’s always my pleasure to report to you any of the interesting and cool things I see and hear. Today, I am lucky to be one of the first people to get to hear Billy Price’s brand new album, Alive And Strange, before its official release date of April 7.
Don’t worry, I’m going to share the pre-order link so you can get yours on order tout de suite. I’ll probably share it more than once, just in case. Here’s the first link: https://lnk.to/billyprice.
Price is not strictly a blues artist. He’s so well versed in soul, rhythm and blues, and jazz in addition to the blues and he mixes them together to create a beautiful concoction for our listening pleasure. Price’s instrument is his amazing and expressive voice, and he’s smart enough to surround himself with a number of other talented musicians and they blend in a delicious way throughout the album.
I'm assuming he's using his regular band for this record, and that would include Steve Delach on guitar; Tom Valentine on bass; Dave Dodd on drums; Jimmy Britton on keyboards; and Eric DeFade on tenor sax. Other musicians include Joe Henderson on trumpet; Matt Ferrero on tenor and baritone sax; and David Avery and DeWayne Chandler on backing vocals. On the last track, which was recorded separately from the live album, Jason Hollar played bass and Bob Matchett trombone.
Originally performed by Carl Sims, It Ain’t A Juke Joint Without The Blues kicks off the album. That’s a sentiment I can definitely get behind. Since this is a live album, there are going to be several songs that are longer than average, as the musicians get a chance to stretch out a number and have more fun with it. In the case of this song, it is one of three songs on the album that are over seven minutes in length. That’s not a problem when you are putting the disc in your player, but it does become an issue when you’re trying to program a one-hour blues show. Having said that, I will somehow, someway, get this one onto Time For The Blues because it’s simply a great song!
Price and the band follow up with their version of William Bell’s Lifestyles Of The Poor And Unknown. This is a very cool ballad that really showcases Price’s incredible vocals. Pure soul in every note.
Next up is the title track, Something Strange, which was written by Price and French guitarist Fred Chapellier. It’s got a funky beat and the horn section gets a chance to strut a little bit. This one is just flat out fun, and the lyrics are wild and very clever.
Price and the band segue into Bobby “Blue” Bland’s This Time I’m Gone For Good. This one was also covered by Price’s good friend, the late great Otis Clay with Dave Specter. The slow, soulful number wrings out all emotions and Price’s vocals are in good form. There’s some amazing jazz saxophone going on with this song by Eric DeFade. This is one that will be getting some serious airplay.
One More Day was written by a great guitarist, Mighty Mike Schermer along with Earl Thomas and recorded by Thomas. This is a very strong rhythm and blues number that blends the horns with some sweet backing vocals. I love this song. And as one might suspect from a song written by a great guitarist like Schermer, there’s a very nice guitar break that fades into a sax run.
Next up is a cover or Percy Mayfield’s Nothing Stays The Same Forever. Far too many of today’s blues fans have forgotten just how good Mayfield was. His lyrics earned him the nickname “The Poet Of The Blues” for good reason. This one is a beautiful ballad and the lyrics have a great deal of strength and they are tailor made for Price’s vocals. DeFade’s jazzy sax is great!
They follow up with Never Get Enough, a raucous number filled with funk and fun times. The call and response with the band is light-hearted and even though the audience response is muted, you can tell they’re having a good time. Listen for Jimmy Britton on the keys. This song was originally written by James Brown, Fred Wesley, and Bobby Byrd.
Next up is the Magic Sam classic, What Have I Done Wrong. Again, it’s a near perfect choice for Price’s vocals and his band’s musicianship. It has that sweet Chicago sound that Magic Sam delivered and for those younger blues fans who might not have experienced him before, maybe this will open the door for them to explore Sam, and many of the other artists covered on this album. It’s respectful, but not a museum collection of tunes as Price puts his own stamp on the songs.
It’s been a long time since I heard James Brown’s Lickin’ Stick. Honestly, I had forgotten just what a great song it is. Price does a terrific job with this interpretation and with my eyes closed, I could swear that I was listening to The Mighty Flames. Maybe it’s a Southern thing – I can remember my father disciplining us kids with a “licking stick.” That is, a stick or branch we had to bring to the house in order for him to use it on our backsides.
They close out the live set with Roy Milton’s R.M. Blues. This one has been covered by the likes of John Lee Hooker and Jimmie Vaughan. It’s a great old-school number that let’s all the members of the band stretch out just a little and give the audience a showcase of their individual skills. You can hear some of the responses in the background, but somehow, I think the actual responses were louder. Gotta love this one.
The last track, recorded at Carneige Mellon, is a very cool rendition of Makin’ Plans. It’s a funky number with some very clever lyrics and a soulful rendition of Price’s vocals. This guy is some kind of smooth and he and his band deliver some of the best music around. I can’t understand why albums like this don’t get major coverage – I guess it’s like the difference between a fine wine and a cheap buzz. You have to invest in the wine.
Do yourself a favor and make that investment in Billy Price and The Billy Price Band. If you’ve read this far, you obviously appreciate good music and this is damn fine music. Go ahead and get your preorder in now at https://lnk.to/billyprice