Spotlight on Gulf Coast Records

Gulf Coast Records is owned by blues rock guitarist Mike Zito and he's released some great titles on the imprint lately. Here we salute the label's latest releases from Jimmy Carpenter, Diana Rein and Billy Price.

Jimmy Carpenter - Soul Doctor
Carpenter is a saxophone player and a vocalist too but one of the most striking tunes here is the instrumental "LoFi Roulette;" if you dig the sax and guitar break in Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" you will absolutely love this song. "Love it So Much" reflects Carpenter's love for the New Orleans sound, "Need Your Love" is a slow and soulful blues flavored with organ fills and a seductive mid-song sax solo to stress the point while "One Mint Julep" is another instrumental, a dance-and-party tune that's likely to inspire the drinking of more than one julep. Zito likes to make cameo appearances on Gulf Coast releases and here he plays guitar and slide guitar on the swingin' "Wild Streak." Fun from top to bottom, Soul Doctor is, well, just what the doctor ordered.

Diana Rein - Queen of My Castle
Just in case there's any question, Rein kicks off her new album with "Yes, I Sing the Blues." From there out she puts on a clinic on how to do just that, while playing hot guitar too. Rein is a devotee of Stevie Ray Vaughan and her playing reflects her love of the late guitarist's style; fans familiar with Vaughan will hear it throughout and in particular during "The Midnight Line." Whether reeling off riffs like Vaughn, Buddy Guy or any number of blues and classic rock guitarists, Rein is sharp as a tack here with incendiary fretwork providing a nice contrast to her sweet vocals. Rein's voice often recalls that of Emmylou Harris, sounding perhaps like what a young Harris would have sounded like had she sung the blues. The album ends on a cut without vocals, but Rein's guitar speaks volumes on "Zoe," the album's one instrumental.

Billy Price - Dog Eat Dog
A former vocalist for Roy Buchanan, Price here follows up his successful Reckoning album with a dozen soulful tracks. Backed by a five-piece band and a three-person horn section, Price sounds resolute as he burns a bridge to a particular lover on the slow and reflective "Lose My Number" while the man he portrays on a cover of Otis Rush's "My Love Will Never Die" isn't happy either even though he's holding on to his feelings for an ex. Warbling organ, forlorn sax and Price soaring into falsetto a couple of times accentuate the song's conflicting emotions. Clearly Price has a knack for giving heartfelt readings of sad songs and he also covers the Impressions' "Same Old Heartaches," although that one is cloaked in a bright pop melody and orchestration. While Price shines on the downbeat stuff, he and the band really click on the buoyant, horn-filled bounce of "Working on Your Chain Gang" where it's palpable how much fun the guys are having playing and singing.

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