There’s always excitement around my house when the Canadian band Downchild comes out with a new album. Aside from being a great influence on the great group The Blues Brothers, Downchild is one of the few bands that has been turning out hundreds of performances and many quality albums (18 to be exact) for 50 years.
Since their last album, Can You Hear The Music, came out in 2014, it’s been a long time since I was able to feel the tingle that comes with a new release. Their newest release, Something I’ve Done, features eight songs written by the band members themselves. The remaining two songs feature one cover and a song written by a former band member, that they had held off on recording.
This incarnation of Downchild features Walsh on guitar and harp; Chuck Jackson on lead vocals and harp; Pat Carey on tenor and bari sax; Michael Fonfara on piano, organ, and dobro; Gary Kendall on bass; and Mike Fitzpatrick on drums. Guest performers include Peter Jeffrey on trumpet; and backing vocals from Walsh, Carey, Fonfara, and Kendall.
The album starts off in fourth gear with the swinging, high-energy Albany, Albany, written by Jackson. Oh yeah, that woman has treated him mean, but you know he can’t stay away. Love the horn and organ interplay, and the song is so good, it made the three year wait in between albums a little more tolerable.
Next up is the one cover on the album, David Vests’ Worried About The World. It’s a little more serious song than the previous and Fonfara and Kendall add their vocals. Jackson’s harp is high and piercing and really adds to the number. Like this one a lot and the darkness is kind of nice.
There’s more swinging on Can’t Get Mad At You, and they manage to keep the edge on the vocals. The horns pound their way through the song and Jackson keeps his vocals sharp, you can feel his pain and resignation.
Speaking of Jackson, he wrote the next song, Mississippi Woman, Mississauga Man. He also adds harp and the lyrics are so much fun you can’t help but want to get up and start moving around. This one is definitely going on Time For The Blues as well as my personal driving playlist. Such a great tune!
After that raucous number, Downchild slows things down on Kendall’s Take A Piece Of My Heart. It’s a beautiful, emotional ballad and Jackson pulls out all the stops on his vocals. It’s a lovely slow number and it’s placed perfectly at the mid-point of the album to show that while they definitely swing, they can reach deep and deliver a real torcher of a song.
Kendall also wrote the next song, Mailbox Money. They pick the pace up and there’s some sweet barrelhouse piano and a great turn by the horn section. It’s a rousing number that I’m sure will be played on my show and many others as well. Those of us who go out every day looking for those “checks in the mail” letters, this one really hits home!
The late band member, vocalist John Witmer, wrote She Thinks I Do. Downchild never recorded the song, and for some reason never featured it in any of their live shows. They have included it on this album as a tribute to Witmer, and I like the song very much. The lyrics are clever and Jackson’s delivery is spot on. I’ve scheduled this for an upcoming Time For The Blues, and I’m sure it will be appearing on other blues shows.
They follow up with the title track, Something I’ve Done, and its great piano and harp interchange. This is a full on assault of high energy swing blues that would be at home at any Chicago or West Coast club. I love this song and can’t wait to share it!
After that up tempo number, they slow things down just a bit with the dark Into The Fire. Jackson’s vocals are strong and Fonfara’s keys get quite a workout. He chords the organ and holds notes to create that almost noir feeling. The horns and Jackson’s voice do the rest. Sweet number.
They close the album with an instrumental written by Walsh. Evelyn is a great way to cap off a well constructed album, and it gives the entire band a chance to take one more turn in the spotlight. The melody is simple, but it’s deceptive as it sets the pace and the guys trade off much like a jazz combo.
Something I’ve Done is a fun, quick (under 40 minutes) album that doesn’t have a bad song on it. I could put this on my player and never once hit the skip button. That’s a fairly rare occurrence.
If you have not yet jumped on the bandwagon that is Downchild, there’s always room for one more. After all, Canadians are polite people, they’ll make a space for you. Check them out for yourself at http://www.downchild.com/, and discover their 50-year legacy as well as all of their albums. You won’t be disappointed!