Robert Cray Band- Crooked Eye Tommy- Todd Wolfe Band- Chris O'Leary
The Robert Cray Band
4 Nights of 40 Years Live
As the title indicates, this album is made up of live cuts recorded at multiple shows (in December 2014) with the set list drawing from Cray's lengthy career. Likely most of the buzz for the record will come from the songs featuring guest players, like harmonica player Lee Oskar (War) on "Sittin' on Top of the World" and singer Kim Wilson on a cover of the Fabulous Thunderbirds' "Wrap it Up" as well as Cray favorites "Right Next Door (Because of Me)" and "The Forecast Calls for Pain." But the set list, 13-songs long in all, is very well-chosen with inclusion of goodies like "Poor Johnny," "I Shiver" and "Bad Influence." A bonus disc includes cuts from Cray's early days.
Crooked Eye Tommy
Butterflies & Snakes
Slow and smoky blues with a rock overtone is this band's forte and they showcase it nicely on this set of originals. Opener "Crooked Eye Tommy" tells the story of the title character while "Come on In" finds singer Paddy Marsh portraying a guy who's marveling at a new love, his first for quite some time. On "I Stole the Blues" some of the band's heroes like Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter and T-Bone Walker are name-checked while Jimmy Calire reels off a slinky sax solo. The dreamy "Tide Pool" is a highlight as is "Mad and Disgusted," the album's one up tempo song and a dance floor winner. The band deviates from the blues genre to close the record with the wistful country of "Southern Heart."
Todd Wolfe Band
Long Road Back
Wolfe is a former lead guitarist for Sheryl Crow and here he honors those days with a take on "Mercy," his co-write with Crow that here is performed slightly faster than the original. Other covers include Cream's "Outside Woman Blues" and an exceptionally hot take on Stephen Stills' "Black Queen" but there are plenty of great originals here too, most notably the Black Crowes-ish title cut and "Hoodoo River," a lengthy instrumental that gives Wolfe and keys man John Ginty opportunities to stretch out.
Gonna Die Tryin'
A former member of Levon Helm's Barnburners, O'Leary is a singer and harmonica player, showcasing both on the self-penned, fast-paced protest blues of "19¢ a Day" where Andy Stahl on sax and Bruce Katz on organ also are featured. The album's title cut reminds of the Fab T-Birds and "Hook, Line and Sinker" and the piano and sax-enhanced "The Devil Drove to Town in a V8 Ford" are also very buoyant but O'Leary also sounds good slowed down to a simmer as on "Letters from Home." The Delta blues of "The Machine" and the New Orleans-flavored blues of "Harvest Time" are other highlights of this impressive effort.
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