I’m really pleased that we have been getting so much good material from Canada recently. We’ve gotten albums from Steve Strongman (and a tip of the old touque to his Administrative Assistant Gail, who sent me a wonderful collection of his previous albums), Chris Antonik (his review is coming soon), and The Steve Kozak Band with their new album, It’s Time.
One of the best things about this job is finding artists that you did not know, and listening to them for the first time, and discovering that they open up whole worlds for you.
Steve Kozak has been kicking around the blues world in Vancouver for the past thirty years of so, but I found his music to be fresh sounding and a lot of fun. Those thirty years have been put to good use as Kozak has a maturity to handle the blues that is often lacking in those artists who are just starting out.
It’s hard to sing about heartache and loss if you haven’t experienced it firsthand. You might be able to give a decent rendition, but you can’t connect to the emotion if you haven’t already been there. Kozak has been there, and then some.
Kozak plays guitar and handles the lead vocals and he is backed by Dave Webb on piano and Hammond organ; Roger Brant on bass; and Chris Nordquist on drums. Special guests include Matthew Rogers on guitar and backing vocals; Shawn Hall on harmonica and backing vocals; Jerry Cook on tenor and baritone sax; and Dave Vidal lends his guitar to One Woman I Need.
Rogers and Hall make up the duo, The Harpoonist And The Axe Murderer, a wild and wooly roots and blues group who are well known for their musicianship and their stage show.
The album starts off with some nice horn work over some swing. Cane Sugar Sweet is a song in the classic West Coast sound and Kozak gets everyone into the act quickly. It’s laid back and easy on the ears, but has a nice beat for dancing.
Next up is You May, a slower number that keeps the West Coast groove going. The lyrics are pure blues, and beneath the horn section, there’s a real honkytonk feel to it. Kozak’s guitar break is very good. Love that West Coast sound.
Kozak and Company follow up with a very cool, jazzy song, Messed Up. He uses some different and exciting percussion to establish the rhythm and then lays some wild keyboards and guitar over top of it. It may not seem as much like the blues as the previous two songs, but it’s wild, and I imagine the audience will eat it up.
Next up is one of my two favorite songs on the album, Magic Sam’s classic, Every Night And Every Day. Kozak has chosen to mix some interesting and not often covered songs with his original compositions. He does a very good job with this number, keeping the sound stripped down and employing Hall’s excellent harp work for emphasis. He’s managed to grab that Chicago sound that shaped so much of the blues.
He follows with another cover, Brook Benton’s Kiddio. The guitar work is very good and makes the song very catchy. It’s a lighthearted number that makes for an interesting follow up to the previous song. It’s a real mood changer.
Kozak wrote the next song, Trouble, with Ben Rogers and this one is very swampy. It’s another mood changer as this one moves further to the dark side. The guitar work is very cool and somewhat choppy and the lyrics tell a very powerful story. Very cool.
One Woman I Need is an unusual song on the album. It’s more that California Cool song and while the lyrics paint some very cool images, it’s a different sound from any other song. The vocals are good, and while it’s not a bad song by any means, it’s not one that sent me over the moon.
Now, I did absolutely love the next couple of songs. The first one, That’s Cool With Me, is a very cool R&B number that gets raucous quickly and turns into a real party song. I’ll be spinning this one very soon on Time For The Blues. The follow up number, Stranger In My Home Town, is my other favorite song on the album. The lyrics seem simple, but they can be taken in so many ways. Those rock musicians who feel out of place within their own town is one way, but it can also apply to all those artists who feel out of step wherever they may be. Also, the entire face of music has changed due to the electronic industry that commands so much of it now. For some of us old-timers, we may feel like that old shoe – we might be comfortable, but we don’t get taken out much. Beautiful number.
Hall plays some mean harp on Tell Me Why. There’s some good swing in them number getting Kozak back into familiar territory with his West Coast sound. It’s a decent number, and should be a solid crowd pleaser.
The next song, Love, Life, And Money, has a darker feel to it and moves deeply into blues territory. This is an emotional song and covers three big areas in the title. It rarely gets more bluesy than this. His vocals are strong, and Webb’s keyboards get quite a workout.
Kozak brings the album to a close with a song about one of his favorite pastimes, Goin’ Fishin’. I can understand that, for I too, enjoy finding a little piece of solitude but a stream or lake and just communing with nature. Often, I won’t catch anything (last time I went, I didn’t bring any hooks or lures) but just being there is enough to recharge me for weeks to come. Find peace any way that you can…
Even if it was 30 years overdue, I’m glad to have finally found Steve Kozak and his very cool band. (Thanks to his publicist, Sarah, who found me somehow.) I can only imagine what I’ve missed up till now, so, once again it’s time to go do some research.
If you’re like me and need to find out more about his music up until now, and his tours going forward, join me in checking out his website: https://stevekozakband.com. He’s definitely worth the search!