Saturday, February 19, 2011

Phil Gates Is Addicted To The Blues

Guitarist-vocalist Phil Gates currently is based in Southern California, but born and raised in Chicago. After time in the Air Force, he moved to Los Angeles and over the years has developed a very tasty style with a slightly lazy, grainy vocal style and a deft guitar style that constantly swings and shows considerable imagination in his solos. His most recent recording (and first to these ears) is Addicted to the Blues, which with his low-key delivery is a refreshing change of pace from the many ‘house-rocking’ releases that are issued. A reference point might be Doug MacLeod’s earlier recordings when he was playing with a band. Gates actually plays most of the instruments here through use of overdubbing during the recording process.

The opening
Get Around To Me, is a lively number with tasteful, crisp jazzy-styled guitar and laconic vocal as well as some accordion that is overdubbed here. Sexy Little Cool, where he notes his girl has a way to move him and put a spell on him, sports effectively whining slide guitar as the tempo stays nice and relaxed. On Evening Train, about a lonely town where no one knows Phil’s name, has an insistent train-like rhythm and a nice twangy solo with imaginative single note runs while My Babe, isn’t the Willie Dixon song, but rather a song with a similar sentiment set with a driving funk groove, as he celebrates how she treats him right. Another easy funk groove underlies Everyday, a song with a message as we got to everyday keep making it better and not let things slow us down.

I’m Addicted is the track referenced by the CD’s title as he sings about Jonesin’ to play a tune. He takes the tempo down for You Should’ve Listened, about a woman too busy yapping and not enough listening. I Never Knew, is another light shuffle as he sings about things better after his woman has gone. Road Shufflin’ is an instrumental taken at a relaxed tempo.if a little leadenly played. The closing The Wisdom, has a spiritual tinge as he remembers those dear to him and the words they said as he still has them in his heart, with his drumming being a bit livelier here.

There are few surprises in the nature of material and the performances have a charm, but the overdubbing (including bass and drums) lends some of the material to possess a sameness that takes away from some of the music’s appeal. This is a shame, because Gates is a thoughtful player and vocalist with plenty to intrigue a listener. One senses that with proper production, Phil Gates can produce a superb, not simply a good, recording. This should be available from
A publicist sent me a review copy.

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