In the liner notes of his new CD Dreamin’ (GSM), Grady Champion recalls the year that followed his winning the 2010 International Blues Challenge presented by the Blues Foundation. It was a year that brought him recognition, both locally and internationally. Dreamin’ is a follow-up to Back In Mississippi Live At The 930 Blues Cafe which was rereleased on Earwig last year. This recording is produced by Zac Harmon and Christopher Troy who provide most of the backing for Champion on this.
About the earlier record I wrote. “The albums strengths include the fact that Grady is a terrific vocalist who exhibits considerable personality and enthusiasm as he sings … He is an effective, credible harp player if not a virtuoso, with Rice Miller being an obvious influence.” These comments apply (although I might suggest Detroit’s Little Sonny is a similar harp stylist to Champion) to the present recording opening with a strutting My Rooster Is King where he forcefully sings backed by his overdubbed harp about the rooster that spreads his wings and rules the roost. The title song, has an effective employment of a vocal chorus, as he sings about dreaming of loving his girl like no one before. There is some effective tremolo laced guitar backing his vocal.
Weight of the World is an attractive soul ballad with Troy adding accordion sounding fills on his keyboards. Guilty As Charged, with an emphatic accompaniment, has an intriguing lyric about proclaiming his love while cheating and breaking his woman’s heart as a harp riff punctuates his vocal. Harmon and Champion collaborated on Same Train with an urgent vocal of waiting at the station for the train to bring his baby back. Make That Monkey Jump is a simple dance number while Cross That Bridge is a southern soul number about a couple sneaking behind their spouses and knowing its wrong but unable to stop. A straight down in the alley groove frames Thank You For Giving Me the Blues, with a strong vocal. Harmon is striking on guitar here. The backing vocals detracts from the country flavor of “Laugh, Smile, Cry Sometimes” (whose melody suggests Ray Charles’ I Got a Woman). Zac Harmon takes a spoken vocal on the closing Walk With Me Baby, that sounds like a funky 2011 equivalent of Scratch My Back as Champion’s harp adds atmosphere.
Grady Champion brings an animated, fervent style to his music and with a varied program of material. If not a world class harp player, his playing does compliment his strong singing. Dreamin’ will undoubtedly please his fans and make him new ones.
I received a review copy of this from a publicist.