Friday, 12 October 2018

Muscle Shoals; Small Town, Big Sound, album review

Muscular Ensemble

Well yes, this is full of strength and power in its pulsing, horn-driven sound, and every artist contributes the protein of musical actin and myosin to keep it all in forward motion.

Keb’ Mo’ starts us off with a bluesy pulse, and then Grace Potter delivers a sultry I’d Rather Go Blind, organ and vocal chorus and horns layering the whole with beautiful sway. Steven Tyler with Nuno Buttencourt adds his signature to a song it is either brave or arrogant to cover: Brown Sugar. I’m just enjoying the albums’ entire upbeat vibe so won’t make a choice on this one.

One of my favourites is the Muscle Shoals, Jamey Johnson, Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton and Lee Ann Womack cover of Gotta Serve Somebody, a great collection of vocalists – Willy for me providing the grit not quite on his latest Sinatra’s cover album, and competing well in his own way with the deep soul of Stapleton. This is an ensemble gem.

New to me Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed snatches some sassy singing out of Steal Away, and Kid Rock, who gets a blasting in one review I read a little while ago, is OK in his James Brown take on Clarence Carter’s Snatching it Back.

Aloe Blacc is soulfully sweet on I’ll Take You There, and Michael McDonald is inimitably emotive on Cry Like a Rainy Day, another personal favourite. And one of my other long-liked vocalists Vince Gill teams up funkily with Wendy Moten on True Love.

It just continues to please, not least because I like so many of the artists in their own right and thus am already tuned in to high expectations, even when buoyed by some surprise, not that Alison Krauss is anything other than what I’d imagine, a gentle-esque take on Come and Go Blues. When the piano and organ and vocal accompaniment joins in there is the sweetest upturn.

Mike Farris and The Blind Boys of Alabama are all over Respect Yourself with anthemic singing, and one more favourite is the fine Alan Jackson on Wild Horses, a Rolling Stones song easier to take on and transform [and always a Country song]. Mustang Sally – well, such inherent funk will assert itself, and Bentley Stephen Smith supports well the compulsive strut. This is made for horns.

Penultimate Givin’ It Up For Your Love has Delbert McClinton on his own song with Tom Johnson, and the star of this show and throughout is the Muscle Shoals, saxophones in fine form on this one. Closer joins Jason Isbell with Candi Staton and Tom Johnson on I Ain’t Easy to Love – another no-brainer for liking.

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