There are so many great blues artists who have spent a large portion of their careers as a player supporting other artists. Some never step into the spotlight, while others do, but often later in their career. Linsey Alexander is one such performer. Over the years, he’s stood beside the likes of B.B.King, Bobby Rush, Buddy Guy, Little Milton, Magic Slim, Johnnie Taylor, A.C.Reed, Larry McCray, Bither Smith, John Primer, Otis Clay, Eddie Clearwater, among other great blues performers.
He is well known in Chicago, and that’s the perfect place to be a blues artist, but I didn’t know him until he released his first album on Delmark, Been There, Done That. That disc came out in 2012 and he released Come Back Baby in 2014.
Now he seems poised to build on the great reception that those albums enjoyed. Two Cats is his latest album, and he mixes his trademark guitar runs with one of the most soulful voices working today. Joining him on the album are Anthony Palmer and Breezy Rodio on guitar; Roosevelt Purifoy on piano, organ, and Rhodes; EG McDaniel on bass; Bryant Parker ad James Wilson on drums; and a horn section made up of Kenny Anderson on trumpet and arrangements, Hank Ford on tenor sax, and Norman Palm on trombone. Special guests include Paul Hanover on harp on three songs and J. Parker providing some spoken word rap on one song.
Alexander opens the album with I’m Not Your Problem, a fun song with a good horn arrangement and Alexander’s mellow vocals taking center stage. Alexander is definitely old-school and entertaining is high on his list of how to put on a show. Good lyrics, excellent delivery, and a very sweet guitar run.
With a title like Where Did You Take Your Clothes Off Last Night, you know you should expect something a little different. Alexander’s guitar is buffeted by Hanover’s harp and McDaniel’s bass. It’s a suspected cheating song that is chock full of great blues – both in the subject matter and the musical arrangement. This will be a great one to play on Time For The Blues.
After the phrase appeared in the chorus of the previous song, That Ain’t Right becomes the title of the next one. It’s got more of an up-tempo approach and the horn section is bright and responsive. Alexander’s vocals have a smooth approach and there’s definitely a funky beat to the song.
The follow up song is the autobiographical Why I Sing The Blues. Alexander has a great quote on his website, "Blues is not hard - it's just a documentary about life." Like most artists, he pulls from his own life, elevating the personal to a higher plain. And since many of us have variations of these things happening, it’s easy to put ourselves into the situations – or if we can’t identify with them, we can thank our lucky stars…
Next up is the title track, Two Cats, and while I’m not crazy about some of the double entendre lyrics, I can still appreciate the song for what it is. Purifoy’s organ playing is very strong and the horns add a lot to the number. I’m probably in the minority and I bet this song kills when Alexander performs it live...
The longest song on the album at just about eight minutes, Facebook Woman follows. It starts off slow and smoldering with Purifoy taking control of the keys and Alexander delivering a smoking guitar run. Once he starts in with the vocals, he does a great job delivering an old-school shouter about a new world problem.
User starts off with a bang after the slow burning previous track. Alexander delivers the goods on this one – good lyrics, tight orchestrations, and great vocals. He keeps it up on I’m In Love With A Woman. It’s a perfect companion to the previous song as the User continues to make his life miserable…
Parker’s drums open the next song, ‘Til I Kissed You, and it starts out slower and more controlled. Purifoy’s electric piano is solid and Alexander sings in a soulful and plaintive manner. He’s vulnerable and this is a good slow song to have on your playlist.
How Could You Do Me Like You Done Me is a strong blistering song – low and slow and full of the blues. Hanover’s harp gives it an extra dimension of the blues, but it’s Alexander’s vocals that really make this song such a strong entry. Despite its six-minute length, I think this one will be appearing on most of the blues shows around the country.
The band starts swinging on Reefer And Blow. Slow down, that’s the name of the song. It’s a look at another problem that’s common with many, not just musicians. He turns it into a cautionary tale of dealing with people who are doing said reefer and blow. And you know, it’s a pretty damn good song.
The horns and organ work with the drums to set up the anthem like Thinking About Me. It’s a quick number, under three minutes and it contains some great guitar work. He follows with another slower pure blues number, Starting Monday. It’s the story of a man who has more week than take home pay and what he’s got to do to turn his life around. Well written number and I’ll be playing this one on the show soon.
Got to love a title like Comb Over Blues. Not that a guy with the hair like I have would ever experience these kind of blues, but you have to feel for the guys that do. Alexander lumps these in with all of the things that are in the news today and turns it into a political dissertation about one of our leaders who happens to have a large mop on his head. At least that’s my opinion…
He ends the album on Kiss Revisited. The rhythm section opens the track and with the addition of the keys and Alexander’s most soulful delivery, the song becomes a great example of R&B at its finest. Great number, one you want to play late at night when you have a private moment with the one you love.
Linsey Alexander is a real treat and I greatly enjoyed Two Cats. He has supreme confidence in what he’s producing and trust me, his vocals are great and when combined with his guitar, you have the makings of a great entertainer.
Don’t take my word for it. Check him out, starting with his website at http://www.linseyalexander.com/, to check out his previous releases and maybe even catch him live. If you live in the Chicago area, you have a better chance of catching him, and if you want to send your favorite professor a plane or train ticket so I can join you, well that would be great too!