The following is a review that extracted from a longer review of several reissues of Nashville blues and R&B that Fred James had compiled. Earl is still with us and recently recorded for the soul-blues label, Ecko Records.
Earl Gaines first attracted notice with Louis Brooks & the Hi-Toppers as a vocalist and a drummer (he played on Arthur Gunther’s Baby Let’s Play House). Gaines vocal on Louis Brooks’ recording of Ted Jarrett’s It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day), and when Brooks was reluctant to tour, Gaines hit the road, working with the likes of Bill Doggett. While other Excello recordings did not chart, he continued recording for Ted Jarrett’s labels before hooking up with DJ Hoss Allen in the mid-sixties and recorded for a variety of labels including king, Hollywood and Sound Stage 7. Working as a log haul truck driver he only performed occasionally until the late 1980s and made a comeback album for the Atlanta Meltone label in 1989. Eventually he was part of the Excello legends and thrilled audiences at Blues Estaffe in Holland. He recorded for a variety of labels including Appaloosa, Blue Moon, Black Top and Cannonball and in 2005 was reunited with Jarrett for his Blue-Fye label. The new album,Crankshaft Blues, is a collection of out-takes and rarities that certainly will be of considerable interest. perhaps not as gifted a singer as Shelton, he is more than able with his heartfelt passion evident on a nice mix of material. The title track is a really solid slow blues while Roscoe Shelton joins him for Someday Things Are Gonna Change, a bluesy piece of soul, while Baby What’s Wrong With You, is a solid shuffle penned by Gaines on which Dennis Taylor rips off a strong tenor solo. James is first rate on guitar here as on the other discs, supporting the vocals and adding crisp, stinging solos while Gaines grainy vocal has particular appeal on the ballad, I Believe in Your Love whose melody evokes the classic Toussaint McCall recording, Nothing Takes the Place of You. There is a credible, if unexceptional treatment of Further on Up the Road, although the album closes on a strong note with his live rendition of the song that started it all, It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day). Earl Gaines may not quite be as strong a vocalist as his contemporary, Roscoe Shelton, but he provides a more downhome flavor as a singer. This is quite an entertaining release and provides a nice introduction for those not familiar with him.