Florida native Steve Wiggins may have started southern rock growing up, but in more recent years his musical focus has become directed more to blues and jazz and the result is The Steve Wiggins’ Band first blues album, “Precious Cargo” (SteveWho? Entertainment) that was recorded live at the Marina Civic Center in Panama City, Florida. In addition to wiggins on piano and organ, the band consists of Lenwood Cherry Jr., on drums and vocals; Bruce Herbert on bass guitar and vocals, and Wally Tirado on saxophone. It is an intriguing change to have a guitar-less blues band. In addition to the ten live performances, there is one studio recording with a guitarist added.
There is not much deep about the music here. Good time blues and boogie with some jazz and gospel inflections. “Steve’s Boogie,” kicks this disc off with barrelhouse boogie piano mixed with riveting sax and chicken fried organ. Its followed by a rendition of song “Cold Shot,” associated with Stevie Ray Vaughan with Herbert handling the vocal and Tirado’s raspy sax being the primary solo voice along with Wiggins’ Hammond B-3. I’m not really a fan of James Taylor’s “Steam Roller,” which is vocally handled first by Herbert and and then Cherry, but Wiggins opens with some deep blues piano and organ and Tirado adds to the atmosphere with his sax. “Doin’ My Thing” features Cherry on vocals. opening with Wiggins pounding the ivories and a bit of a funk groove when Tirado wails.
Cherry penned “Black Cat Woman,” with an insistent rhythm that has Wiggins and Tirado prominent in the backing as Cherry sings about this woman on the other side of town that likes to get down and has a spell on him. “Roosterfish,” is a solid jazz-inflected instrumental which is followed by John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples,” with rollicking keyboards and an affable vocal by Wiggins. The tempo slows down for Cherry singing, “My Last Tear,” with Tirado’s sax and the band hinting of “Stormy Monday,” as Wiggins gets down in the alley on piano and organ. Next up is a rendition of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” followed by a solid rendition of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Cherry may not be Bobby Bland or Bill Withers, but he does a very credible job delivering this lyric as well as the others. This is followed by the studio recording, another rendition of “Doin’ My Thing,” with a little bit fuller sound with the addition of guitar in the backing .
What stands out on “Precious Cargo,” is Wiggins really strong piano, Tirado’s raw sounding tenor sax and Cherry’s solid vocals. The band is pretty solid as well. band. The shortcoming may be that not all of the material here is strong. Still, this disc displays Steve Wiggins Band as the entertaining group they are.
This review has been stylistically and grammatically corrected from the version that appeared in Jazz & Blues Report issue 329. The review copy was provided by the firm handling publicity for this release.