Will Porter, Tick Tock Tick

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Will Porter

Tick Tock Tick

Gramofono Sound (U.S.), dist. Kent Records (U.K.)

This superb album is too good to remain under wraps. My full-length review will appear soon in Blues Music Magazine. Here is a preview.

 

Will Porter’s singing is so natural as to make his considerable technique transparent, even invisible. Leveraging valuable contributions from Dr. John, the Womack Brothers, Bettye LaVette, and others, and making the most of producer Wardell Quezergue’s arrangements, Tick Tock Tick catches our attention with swaggering soul and jagged funk, and draws us in with thoughtful blues and lush, quietly devastating ballads. This is timeless stuff, the perfect restorative for listeners out of patience with an endless stream of showy but ultimately shallow music. Porter has made a record full of soul and heart that grown-up human beings will respond to and love.

 

 

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Cyril Neville • Magic Honey

cyril neville

Cyril Neville

Magic Honey

Ruf Records, 2013

http://www.rufrecords.de

Cyril Neville became a household name (in hip households, anyway) as a member of The Meters and the youngest Neville Brother. More recently, the singer-percussionist has enjoyed popularity with Galactic and the all-star R&B/rock ensemble, Royal Southern Brotherhood. Neville’s latest solo album, Magic Honey, is naturally heavy on the sounds of his native New Orleans, with elements of rock, blues, and soul seasoning the funky roux.

The title track, a bluesy stomp outlined by Cranston Clements’s crisp guitars and the superbad tandem of Carl Dufrene (bass) and “Mean” Willie Green (whose daredevil drum fills on this song alone are worth the price of admission), splits the difference between Howlin’ Wolf and Junior Wells in full James Brown mode. (If the brash harmonica player is named, I apologize: I can’t find the credit.) The lyric, delivered with gusto by Neville, extends the sexually charged King Bee/Little Queen Bee metaphors popularized by Slim Harpo. “Blues Is The Truth,” an uptown blues ballad with a serpentine bass line and a dark undercurrent, is another bluesy highlight.

“Swamp Funk” updates creamy, ‘70s-style New Orleans syncopation, and features two of that city’s preeminent musical products: its composer Dr. John (organ) and Allen Toussaint (piano). “Funky butt is what they want,” indeed! “Another Man” brings back the funk, with Neville’s percussion and Toussaint’s piano suggesting Caribbean undertones and Clements’s guitar break developing a singing, Santana-esque tone.

But many of the album’s funky cuts have a hard, contemporary edge. Paul Butterfield’s “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” gets an angular interpretation with another showy Clements solo, and Walter Trout’s sputtering guitar lead fits his “Running Water” like a glove. “Working Man,” with RSB bandmate Mike Zito on guitar, is rocked up so that it barely resembles Otis Rush’s original recording, yet retains its appeal through the wah, distortion, and flash. Zito also guests on “Money And Oil,” a simple, riff-based song predicated on an insistently pounding bass line and the guitars’ funky scratch and whining slide.

Other songs step outside the Magic Honey formula with varying degrees of success. Where Eugene Gales’s Zeppelin-esque “Something’s Got A Hold On Me,” a slow, heavy blues rocker, seems out of place, the slightly faster “Still Going Down Today” is softened agreeably by a slinkier groove, dramatic chorus, and soulful touches. Warren Haynes’s “Invisible” is excellent, sparse deep funk, pointing up the interplay between Norman Caesar’s organ and the rhythm section. And “Slow Motion” not only captures a sunny island mood, it is keenly aware that melodic American soul music was a dominant influence on Jamaican ska and reggae. It is a fitting closer to a strong, wide-ranging record from Cyril Neville, one of the funkiest humans on the planet, and a son of America’s most musically cosmopolitan city.

TOM HYSLOP

I received this CD for review from Mark Pucci Media.

Macy Blackman & The Mighty Fines • I Didn’t Want To Do It

Macy Blackman

Macy Blackman & The Mighty Fines

I Didn’t Want To Do It

MamaRu Records, 2013

http://www.macyblackman.com/

The pianist Macy Blackman, a longtime music educator and piano expert, has been an active performer since the 1960s, specializing in jazz and rhythm and blues, and in particular the R&B music of New Orleans. He has just released his third album with his band The Mighty Fines. The 14 tracks on I Didn’t Want To Do It supply everything necessary for a rollicking good time except the partygoers.

The rock-solid Mighty Fines are Jack Dorsey or Adam Goodhue (drums), Bing Nathan (bass), Ken Jacobs (baritone saxophone–delicious!), and Nancy Wright (tenor saxophone, vocals), supporting Blackman (piano), whose singing is excellent and interesting. In contrast to the Mighty Fines’ lively and infectious music, Blackman’s vocal style is pretty far from excitable–not deliberate, exactly; languid perhaps comes closer. Although I have no sense that Blackman is trying to imitate the great Professor Longhair, and any similarity lies more in feeling and attitude than in sonic resemblance, his resonant timbre and playful, yet somehow grave quality do recall Fess. That is no small asset for anyone singing Crescent City music.

The playlist includes standards and obscurities alike, reflecting Blackman’s long history and close involvement with this repertoire. The latter category includes the woozy rocker “Help Yourself,” credited to Allen Toussaint, and “The Good Book,” a brooding, gospel-inflected number in a minor key. Blackman sings the standard “What Do I Tell My Heart” beautifully, his 12/8 piano figure reflecting Fats Domino’s version; the saxophone charts are sublime. Blackman’s friend Dr. John penned the lovely ballad “Just The Same” and, with Doc Pomus, the sly, bouncing “Never Fool Nobody But Me.” More familiar are “Who Shot The La-La,” a classy take on Irma Thomas’s “Somebody Told You” with a solid Wright vocal, the title track–a romp from The Spiders’ catalog with a chorus and a descending hook that you’ll recognize at once if you have ever heard it–and Chris Kenner’s immortal “I Like It Like That,” one of those songs that seems to encapsulate everything about New Orleans music: rippling piano, soul-clap snare hits, honking saxophones, Afro-Caribbean flavor, stop-time rhythms, an instantly memorable melody and lyric.

Blackman draws from other sources as well. The deep soul ballad “Dreams To Remember” is presented in an arrangement not far from Otis Redding’s original, with Blackman, playing the only guitar part on the album, filling Steve Cropper’s role. Blackman’s piano rhythms are quietly spectacular on a jaunty “Something’s Got A Hold On Me.” Wright sings lead on that Etta James classic and on Ike and Tina Turner’s “A Fool In Love,” which is enhanced by a tough sax solo and such delightful touches as the bold fill by Dorsey at 2:31. The Brook Benton-Dinah Washington duet “Rockin’ Good Way,” shorn of strings and its politely rocking, straight-eighth-note rhythm, is recast as a syncopated, shuffling New Orleans strut, and Jackie Wilson’s immortal “Higher And Higher” closes the program on a high note, sounding very much like a one-pass (and maybe one microphone) take that builds on Blackman’s block-chorded introduction, with rowdy hand claps, uninhibited drumming, and wild saxophones creating an irresistible, pure party atmosphere.

That sense of fun is at the heart of what most of us think of when it comes to the R&B of New Orleans, and Macy Blackman & The Mighty Fines convey it perfectly. I Didn’t Want To Do It goes further, showing rarer aspects of New Orleans’s music: Saturday night and Sunday morning, romance and heartbreak, high seriousness and low clowning, all skillfully played and sung.

TOM HYSLOP

I received the review copy of this CD from Blackman’s publicist, PR by DR.