There is a spirit that runs through the blues. While it evolved from old spirituals, I’ve always thought that it came out of the souls of oppressed people as a way of relieving their burden.
That’s why the blues grew out of slavery. In the world at large, African-Americans have borne the brunt of that evil institution, but let us not forget some of the other groups of people who have felt the lash across their backs.
For many of us with Jewish blood, we remember our own time in bondage and celebrate that liberation every year. We also try to work to prevent that same evil from visiting others in this world.
Why am I going on about the subject? Today I want to take a look back at a killer album that was released in 2015 on Lots Of Love Records by an eclectic performer, Lazer Lloyd. The self-titled album debuted at Number Four on the Roots Music Chart and enjoyed several weeks in the top ten. We didn’t get a copy of it at the time, but when I discovered that Lloyd was going to be appearing in the area while on tour, I managed to get a copy and am delighted to share it with you.
Working as a trio, with Lloyd handling guitars, vocals, and harmonica; he is joined by bass player Moshe Davidson, and drummer Elimelech Grundman. The group is joined by keyboardist Kfir Tsairi on four songs. A gifted songwriter, Lloyd wrote 11 of the 12 songs on the album and covered a rhythm and blues classic for the remaining number.
The album starts off with a bit of country blues on Burning Thunder. Lloyd has an assured voice and his guitar work is very strong. His take on the blues is not just observations from his life in America, but he manages to take world events and channel them through his personal experience. It’s a song that delivers a promise of great things to come.
Next up is Suffering. With a title like that, you know that the blues can’t be far behind. Lloyd plays a mean guitar on this one and his lyrics are sharp and pointed. Aside from his good playing, I really like his songwriting. He manages to cut through some of the flowery language and just lays things out. It’s very difficult to take some of the subjects and treat them simply and Lloyd manages to do it very well.
He follows up with an autobiographical song, Rockin’ In The Holy Land, that starts off with some great swampy harp. Lloyd spent ten years living in Israel and making some great music, both rock and blues. This song uses those experiences to set up a danceable hook and turns it into a good driving number with some great guitar work.
Lloyd slows the tempo down with Never Give Up. This is a beautiful quiet number that touches the heart. He manages to just stand there and expose his emotions through his vocals primarily. It’s a strong and brave song and one that opens him up to the audience.
Some hard core psychedelic blues follows on Out Of Time. Lloyd spent some years in a jam band when he first moved to Israel, so it’s only natural that some of those influences would follow him over to the blues. He demonstrates that he has more than one way to express the blues, and to reach his audience. His guitar work continues to be sharp and edgy.
Lloyd has another sweet and sentimental song with Broken Dreams. Again, that is such a great title for a blues song, but here he steps more into a country groove. While the two genres are related, there is a way of singing and playing that separate the two. However, both rely heavily on emotion, and on this song, he delves deep into his heart to share his emotions with the audience.
He comes back with a vengeance on Set My Soul Free. His guitar becomes a weapon in the opening and drives the song with the intensity of a punk rock number. The drums get a workout as his vocals are delivered in a demanding chant. It’s a fascinating track and one that draws from his rock days for the music, but the lyrics are mystical and poetic.
Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay follows. It’s quite a juxtaposition from the previous number. However, when you examine the lyrics, they become two sides of the same coin. Both are songs of setting a soul free from the demands of this world. Lloyd’s version is stripped down to the barest essentials and he does a fine job of interpreting this classic. It’s a good choice.
Lloyd’s wife Ilana is the inspiration for the next song, Moroccan Woman. The city of Morocco is one of the great crossroads of the world with so many cultures coming together. Much in the way Israel is a crossroads for those who follow the traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Just like Chicago is for those who worship at the altar of music. Lloyd has managed to put all three into his art. Here he attempts to mix in some of the rhythms from Morocco and capture the spirit of this great place. Very cool number.
Next up is Love Yourself, a song of great encouragement. It’s always good to find an uplifting song or two on an album. Lloyd has said that he never sets out to write in a certain way, he just follows where the music takes him and polishes up the best ones for records. Don’t be surprised that even on his albums that diversity manifests itself in his song choices. Just enjoy where the music takes you.
He follows with the bluesy Time To Love. It has a nice long guitar introduction that shows what Lloyd can do with six-strings. His lyrics appear simple on the surface but the truth is rarely simple. He lays out his hopes and dreams while using some of the more employed blues motifs and takes them deeper. It’s a good song with some of the best guitar work on the album.
He closes the album with Whole Heart. It’s a quiet, reflective number and a statement of faith. I’ve long felt that the best songs – if not every song – are statements of faith. There is the faith of the performer that he or she demonstrates by putting the song out there and hoping it will find an audience. This is a gorgeous song and a great way to close the album. It’s all about faith. Your faith, and the faith of the world to find that light in the darkness.
I am fascinated by Lazer Lloyd. He’s a helluva musician – one of the finest guitarists playing today – and a good singer with an expressive voice. I had caught a couple of videos on YouTube, but those just don’t convey the depth of emotion that he demonstrates on this album. And I know he’s got to be even better live.
Speaking of live, and I mentioned he was appearing in the area, specifically, Lloyd will be in South Boston, Virginia, a lovely town, on Thursday, May 18 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are a mere $10 and children under 12 will be admitted free. The venue is located at American Legion Post 8, 1710 Jeffress Blvd., South Boston, VA 24592 and the link to purchase tickets is http://m.bpt.me/event/2935204
If you want to check out Lloyd for yourself, a great place to start is his website: http://www.lazerlloyd.live/.