Thanks to the current dearth of live music, I’ve become almost completely reliant on publicists and artists themselves to get new music. My local record store is only letting five customers in at a time, so I don’t get to browse their used Blues albums and CDs very often. Fortunately, I’ve made some friends who are always turning me on to groups I don’t know, and this time I hit the jackpot.
In Sacramento, California, there’s a fine band that’s been kicking up their collective heels for a while now. The go by the name of Red’s Blues, a nod to the flaxen locks of their lead singer Beth Grigsby. Just remember that old saying that I just made up, “It’s a brave man who falls in love with a red head, It’s a smart man who lets her win every argument, it’s a lucky man who gets his love returned.”
No mail, please, I’m deliriously happy to be married to a red head.
But I digress. Beth Grigsby is a great singer who along with her husband-bass guitarist RW, make up half of Red’s Blues. The remaining half are Doug Crumpacker on guitar and harmonica, and Tim Wilbur on drums and percussion. Every member of the group writes songs and sing on the album, and I assume in their live performances.
The album that has made me a fan of the group is Broke Down In The Fast Lane, an independent release that has left me wanting more than the 11 songs on it. That will obviously have to wait until I can travel west to catch a live show. Someday soon for all of us, I hope.
Red’s Blues is obviously well respected (as they should be) by the quality of special guests who have joined them for this release. They have two of the hardest working men in the blues business, Johnny Burgin on guitar and Kid Andersen on Wurlitzer Electric Piano, harmony vocals, and producer of the album.
Other guests include John Cocuzzi on piano; Rick Estrin on harmonica; Sid Morris on piano and organ; Kyle Rowland on guitar and harmonica; and Grub Mitchell on piano and harmony vocals.
The album starts off with the title track, Broke Down In The Fast Lane. It’s a slow bluesy story with a distant harmonica adding a plaintive touch. It’s a story many of us can identify with as we try to live fast. Is it worth it if everything collapses around us? Grigsby’s throaty vocals make the song for me. Yeah, I’m looking forward to the rest of this album.
See if you can guess who Flim Flam Man is describing. Could it be a real person? You think? It’s a sly wink but done with a great deal of humor. I probably won’t be playing this one, simply because we tend to avoid political statements, and this one hits close to the bone. I love it, both musically and lyrically, but there are others who have a different sense of humor.
Next up is Road Scholar, which starts out with some good percussion and guitar work that’s as tight as any surf rock song you could want to name. I like the retro 1960’s vibe the song creates and the lyrics are good. For those of us who spent so much of our lives on highways, this one hits us where we live. Solid number.
Howlin’ Winds is a great Joe Turner song that doesn’t get a lot of play these days. Pity. Sid Morris’ piano and Rick Estrin’s harmonica set the mood and Beth Grigsby’s vocals do the rest. This is a beautiful cover of a neglected song, and I will definitely be sharing this one on Time For The Blues. Love this song! I think you will as well.
They follow up with Jackknifed, a strong driving song (no pun intended). Sticking with more automotive metaphors, this song details the derailing of normal life when dealing with life as a musician. Good guitar work from Burgin who seems to have a lot of fun on the break. “You better have some cash if you want to sing the blues.” Have truer words ever been spoken?
Next up is a slower number, Sweet Karma. I could hear this one being performed as a crossover by both country and pop artists. Grigsby’s voice is sweeter than it has been – not that growl that often delivers a blues song. It’s a lovely break and this one will end up on my playlist. The lyrics do contain a nice twist. Enjoy.
Okay, the band cooks on 40 Years Of Trouble. Remember what I said about crossing a red head? Hell, crossing any woman? Never a good idea. This is a story from the woman’s point of you. Once again, Burgin’s guitar work adds punctuation to the song. It’s the kind of song a man should take as a warning. Do Not Give A Woman 40 Years Of Trouble.
Some sweet harmonica opens A Word About Gossip. Here’s another bad habit that needs to be dropped by everyone. This one could be blues, with a few changes could be old school country, as the story is universal. A nice sweet song. It sounds like an upright bass was used for this song.
Here’s a story of a man wondering what he’s going to do now that his woman is G.O.N.E.. It’s another song I could hear as a country or honkytonk crossover. John Cocuzzi’s piano work rocks the number. Don’t worry so much about labels, a good song is a good song! (That’s a reminder more for me than anyone else.)
The next song is a lounge-y Hands Off. It’s a Peggy Lee style song that focuses on bass and percussion and voice. I love the stripped down sound and this one perfectly fits Grigsby’s vocals. This could receive play on jazz shows as well. I really like it and would love to see it live.
The album closes out with Say What!. It’s a fun song with some solid guitar work trading off at the beginning. It’s an instrumental, so everyone gets a chance at the spotlight and makes the most of it.
Red’s Blues is a band that needs to be on your radar. They have a very solid approach to their music, and trade off lead vocals as necessary. The real star of the vocals is Beth Grigsby who adds an element that the guys lack. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad, but the best numbers are the one that feature her as the lead.
Broke Down In The Fast Lane is a good album that is sure to satisfy just about everybody. It may be a little tricky to find at your local store – especially know – so be sure to check out their website here.
Just as I was finishing this review, I received word that bassist-vocalist-songwriter-Beth’s husband RW Grigsby has suffered a stroke. You can well imagine the financial hardship that is coming, not just the hospital stay, but the intensive therapy that he will need once he comes home. They’ve already had major setbacks with not being able to play during this pandemic, and this just adds to their situation.
There is a Go Fund Me Page here and if there is anyway you can help these fine people, please give what you can. It will mean a lot to them.