I’ve been a fan of the Andy T Nick Nixon Band for a while now and was sad to hear that Nick Nixon was retiring in 2016. His vocals were an integral part of the band’s sound and I hoped that it wouldn’t spell the end of the group.
Fortunately for us, Andy Talamantez, aka Andy T, had no intention of stopping, or apparently even slowing down as he changed the band’s name to The Andy T Band and picked up a great new vocalist named Alabama Mike.
Double Strike, their latest album on American Showplace Music is their first album without Nixon’s full time involvement (he does sing lead vocals on six of the album’s 13 songs, and backing vocals on one more) mixes those songs that he had recorded with six that features Alabama Mike and the effect is very much like one great singer passing the microphone to another.
You have to love those fat horns that open up the album on I Want You Bad. Alabama Mike takes the lead vocals on the song and he does a credible job, it sounds like he’s been performing with the band for years. He’s got an old-school shout going on and co-producer Anson Funderburgh delivers a great guitar break to make the song a standout.
Alabama Mike stays on the vocals for Somebody Like You and Nick Nixon adds background vocals. It’s a gospel flavored R&B number that swings. It’s a sweet sound and one that’s got to make you happy, and if it doesn’t, you might want to check your pulse… Seriously, it’s a fun song and Larry Van Loon’s (who also wrote the song) organ work is top notch.
Nixon steps behind the microphone to deliver the vocals on Deep Inside. I’ve long been a fan of his and the band sounds righteous on this number which features Greg Izor sweet harp work. It’s good of the album to feature a couple of songs by Alabama Mike before offering the first from Nixon. It’s a shame that Nixon has had to retire, but it sounds like the band is going to be in good hands vocally.
Nixon continues carrying the vocals on the next few songs, starting with Sweet Thing. The tempo slows down and it allows Nixon to squeeze a lot of emotion out of the words. The band is tight and it sounds like it has for the last several outings.
Nixon keeps the microphone for the next couple of songs, both written by Chuck Willis, starting with I Feel So Bad. It’s a sassy up-tempo number with some nice guitar fills. The horns give it a big band feel and the group gets into a groove quickly and stays there. Fun song. Next is Juanita, a big brassy ballad that showcases Nixon’s vocal prowess. He’s a great vocalist and has left some mighty big shoes for Alabama Mike to fill. Somehow though, after hearing him on a couple of songs, I tend to think he’s going to be the voice of the band for some time.
An Anson Funderburgh instrumental, Mudslide, follows. It’s a jazzy number that features guitar and organ to great effect. Funderburgh is one of those great guys who sometimes slips under the radar, but you can never discount his importance in songwriting, playing, band leading, and producing. This is a cool number and I wish there were more of a market for instrumentals. I always enjoy hearing a band stretch out and deliver.
Alabama Mike is back on lead vocals for the next couple of songs. The first, Sad Times, is a big band sounding number that features Mike Flanigan on Hammond B3. Mike sounds like he is right at home fronting a big sound like the guys put out on this number. Some singers might get intimidated by the opportunity, but he seems to revel in it.
Mike sticks around for Doin’ Hard Time, a great Chicago blues style number with some hot guitar and good horns opening the song. Mike turns shouter for this number and does so with great style. With a title like that, and a musical approach that the Andy T Band lays down, this is a song that should be getting a lot of airplay!
The next couple of songs are the last ones for Nick Nixon. You have to hand it to him, he’s an amazing singer and has left a great legacy behind. The first is Drunk Or Sober, stylistically it’s similar to the previous number with a little more upbeat tempo. Nixon does a fine job on the vocals and the horn section adds a nice touch. I Was Gonna Leave You is another solid blues offering and a fitting exit for Nixon. Funderburgh plays lead guitar for this song and adds a few of his touches and the organ and horns play off each other nicely.
The last couple of songs, like the first couple, belong to Alabama Mike. Dream About You starts out with some rocking piano and organ and the vocals come in with high energy. It’s a throwback to some earlier Chicago styles and it’s great to listen to. I can imagine this one being a great song when done live.
The album ends with a question that so many of us have asked over the years, Where Did Our Love Go Wrong. Those horns come in again to really make the song. Mike is in great voice and it soars with great style and confidence.
The Andy T Band will go on. If you had any qualms about the quality dropping with Nick Nixon’s retirement, let me dispel them for you now. Alabama Mike is a great addition to the band and I think they will continue to put out high quality albums.
You don’t have to take it from me, do your own investigation and check them out at their website, http://www.andytband.com/ to see what they’ve been up to and where they’re going to be. If you get a chance to catch them live, you’re going to have a great time.
And if you feel like checking out any of the other artists on the American Showplace Music roster, and I think you should, be sure to drop by http://www.americanshowplacemusic.com/ and tell ‘em The Professor sent you. I won’t see a dime out of it, but maybe they’ll keep sending me all their great music!