The city of Atlanta is a cultural crossroads. It’s not just an airport destination with a ballclub, you can find just about anything you want in the city including a thriving blues scene. Friends of mine who live in the area are always reporting about catching great national acts, and every so often I hear about a local artist or group that have great potential.
One of the artists that recently came to my attention was Larry Griffith, who fronts the Larry Griffith Band. Griffith is one of those people who was weaned on music practically from birth. There was always music in his house and surrounding neighborhood, primarily blues and funk, and he gravitated towards a career in music starting with the drums.
After establishing himself as a drummer and relocating from his native Cincinnati to Atlanta, Griffith found himself immersed in the blues world. While traveling through Clarksdale he was struck by a powerful dream in which he was rocking out on a guitar and swaying all the people in the club. He took it as a sign and began working on his chops.
His most recent independent album, Shake It Loose, was sent to me via his publicist and I’m glad that she sent it along. It’s a cool soulful album that showcases Griffith’s unique voice and several great players as well. Griffith is joined by Mike Lowry on lead guitar; Dana McCarthy on bass; Rashaan Griffith on keys and drums; Steven Milsap on drums; and Michael Milsap on keys. The wonderful backing vocals are provided by Sanctuary, consisting of Darshana Gettle, Tyra Tomlinson Beatty, Shannon Hill; and Lavaida Monique.
Griffith and company start things off hot with the soulful Keep Ridin’. It’s the kind of auto-erotic double entendres that make just about anyone stand up and take notice. Milsap plays some good chords on the keys, keeping everything anchored while Griffith and the background vocalists trade off on the lyrics. There’s a nice guitar break from Lowry just to add the icing on the cake.
Next up is Every King Needs A Queen, a slow soul ballad that showcases Griffith and the backing vocalists. It reminds me a little of how Solomon Burke would approach some of his work – unleashing his oversized personality on the song and elevating it in the process. There’s some gospel flavor and Regeski does a good job with the horns.
Griffith gets a little funky on All I Really Wanna Do, with some fat horn sounds and some cool electric piano behind his vocals. It’s a throwback sound very reminiscent of some of the best slow funk from the ‘70’s. Griffith seems to be the most at home when he can take his time with a song. The man is in absolutely no hurry to end a song, he likes to stroll rather than run and the leisurely pace is a nice change from a lot of the music rolling out.
He follows with the lush Our Love Is In Good Hands. It starts out with some beautiful guitar and keys before Griffith takes over on the vocals. The song interprets today’s news through song and reminds us that better days are ahead as long as we keep our trust in the all-powerful hands. Griffith does an excellent job in presenting the song and I’m sure it has to be a real crowd pleaser when he does it live.
He picks up the pace slightly with Ain’t Puttin’ Up. It’s got a good rock beat and Lowry and Milsap bring the introduction to life. The song is one that most blues fans will enjoy, that is, if they like their blues with a little bit of jump in them. Griffith’s got a good soulful voice and he uses it in a calm manner. So far, he’s not gone out with an edgy or gravelly voice. He just comes out and slides in with the smooth.
Griffith closes the album with the title track, Shake It Loose. He’s having fun with what sounds like a little Texas funk. He lets the band kick it up a couple of notches, but his vocals keep a tight rein on the proceedings, letting us think that the music is going to bust out at any second. If you’re looking for a dance number, this is one you can shake it to, just watch out for the tempo changes. It’s a fun song and a good way to bring the album to a close.
While Griffith may have only put six songs on the album, each song clocks in at better than five minutes and half are over six minutes. It’s like getting a live album with the way his musicians get their chance in the spotlight. I like his voice and I think he’s got a good band. They deliver the goods and if you like soulful blues, this is a good one to pick up.
Griffith has three other albums and a couple of singles that he’s release previously. I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on them to check out what he did prior to Shake It Loose. I have a feeling with his background, there’s plenty of soul and maybe a little funk mixed in with those blues.
If you’re interested in checking him out for yourself, the best place to start is at his website, http://larrygriffithmusic.com/, and if you happen to be in the Atlanta area, be sure to catch him live when you can. If you do, please drop me a line here and let me know how you enjoyed the show.