Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Dogtown Blues Band Featuring Special Guest Vocalist Barbara Morrison ~~ Everyday

There have been several bands that have found me through social media. I’m always grateful when somebody reaches out to introduce themselves and to tell me about their band. Even if I can’t write about them right away, every single band ends up on my radar and I watch eagerly waiting for them to come up with that breakout album.
Of course, if they are excellent right out of the gate, that’s like butter on a biscuit.
When Richard Lubovitch contacted me about his group, The Dogtown Blues Band, I was immediately intrigued. He described their sound as old-school straight ahead blues, a sound that I love, and he quickly sent me a copy of their 2016 independent release, Everyday.
While I was finishing up a couple of projects, the album sat in my “To Be Reviewed” pile waiting its turn patiently. Well, the time has come brothers and sisters, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait. Old-school straight ahead blues is a good starting point, but it’s hardly the whole enchilada.
First off, Lubovitch and the guys have secured Barbara Morrison as a special guest vocalist. Morrison, who is originally from Detroit, is primarily noted for being a fantastic jazz performer who has performed with the likes of Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Collette, Joe Williams, Gerald Wiggins, Jimmy Witherspoon, Hank Crawford, Eddie Harris, Nancy Wilson, David T. Walker and Jimmy Smith.
She’s a versatile performer and her vocals on several tracks gives the band a deeply confident feel.
Of course, the guys who make up The Dogtown Blues Band are no slouches either. Aside from Lubovitch on guitar, the band consists of Wayne Peet on organ and piano; Bill Barrett on chromatic harmonica; Lance Lee on drums; Trevor Wayne on upright bass; and Tom Lilly on electric bass.
Other special guests include Marcus Watkins on slide and pedal steel guitar; Andrew Pask on sax; Dan Rosenboom on trumpet; and Ellington Peet on drums.
Lubovitch wrote four songs and co-wrote one more with Barrett and the remaining five are covers giving the album a good mix of classic and contemporary songs.
The album opens with Everyday I Have The Blues from the songwriting tandem of Aaron “Pinetop” Sparks and his brother Milton. Over the years it’s been recorded by the likes of Memphis Slim, Count Basie, and B.B. King. Morrison takes the vocals for the first of four times and does an outstanding job. Peet’s keyboards set the mood and Morrison takes over from there. It’s a lively tune that shows that the band can easily mix their blues with some sweet jazz. It’s a very promising start.
The next song, Shrimp Walk, is an instrumental written by Lubovitch. It’s a bouncy number and a nice interlude. The band works very well with Peet’s keyboards laying down the rhythm and the guitar and harp taking turns on the breaks.
Willie Dixon’s Easy Baby follows, again graced by Morrison’s vocals. The song was originally released by Magic Sam back in 1958. Morrison is at her seductive best as she purrs her way through the number and Barrett’s harp answers her throughout. A very cool version of the song.
Another Lubovitch instrumental original, Boxcar 4468, is the next track. It’s a different feel from the other songs so far. It’s still blues with some wicked slide and pedal steel guitar from Marcus Watkins. It’s a gentler number, with a kind of western flavor. I like the slow, deliberate pace of the song very much.
The legendary Doc Pomus is easily one of my top three favorite songwriters. And he’s up there as one of my favorite performers as well. While most people cover some of his great hits like Save The Last Dance For Me, This Magic Moment, There Must Be a Better World Somewhere, or even Viva Las Vegas, Doc’s Boogie is one of his great songs that is rarely covered. On ths version, Barrett gives Morrison a break as he steps behind the mic to handle the vocals. This version has plenty of pep and drive and Morrison’s voice, while not as rich as Morrison’s, is expressive and you can hear the band having a good time with the song.
The next song, Variations II (A Minor Blues), is a Lubovitch instrumental that plays more slowly and jazzy than his others. This is one I could almost hear in a French Café but it’s got a strong guitar break to keep the song moving.
Morrison gets back behind the mic for one of my favorite songs, Ain’t Nobody’s Business. Written by Porter Grainger and Everett Robbins, it’s been recorded by a galaxy of stars over the years. She and The Dogtown Blues Band sound like the song was written for them. It’s a lovely version of the song.
Lubovitch and Barrett teamed up to write All The Way Down. It’s a very strong blues instrumental that intertwines their guitar and harp into a nice dance with one leading and then the other. Good stuff.
Morrison contributes vocals for one last time on Don Nix’s Same Old Blues. It’s a heartbreaking number and her vocals soar up and over everything. This is a showcase song and she nails it six ways to Sunday. I think she’s done a fantastic job with the band, and I truly hope that this is not just a one-time thing and that she’ll be singing with them more.
The end the album with one more Lubovitch instrumental, County Line. It’s a jazzy number, and while some may not listen to five instrumentals, the band is in fine form and they show that they can handle just about anything that comes along. I’m willing to bet that the six main members of the band cut their teeth on jazz as they pick up cues quickly and seem to be able to change directions on a dime.
Everyday is a strong release from a band that was completely off my radar. The Dogtown Blues Band will now occupy a stronger place there and I will be interested to see what they might find themselves up to on future projects. Find out more about them and pick up the album at their website, https://www.thedogtownbluesband.com/. You can also find Barbara Morrison at her website, http://www.barbaramorrison.com/.  


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