Mighty Sam McClain has come someway from the chitlin circuit and 45s on small independent labels. Often thought of as a blues and soul vocalist in the Bobby Bland, listening to him singing from the opening moments of “Life,” the first track of his collaboration with Norwegian guitarist Knut Reiersrud, One Drop Is Plenty (Valley Vue) one hears echoes of the late Solomon Burke mixed with some of Bobby Bland’s choked leaps.
McClain’s sounds deeper here perhaps than I remember him, but he sounds so comfortable while Reiersrud is a fine guitar whether laying down single note modern blues guitar runs, or playing slide guitar in a manner suggestive of the of Derek Trucks and the sacred steel players. His slide playing here is supportive of the vocals and not in the jam band mode of Trucks. And the way McClain delivers his vocal accentuates the message of the lyric as he asks the lady does she believe in love on Can You Stand The Test Of Love.
There is a nice Memphis feel to You Don't Know Nothing About Love, with McClain as he sings about the nighttime, tears fall like rain, starting again in the morning and pray that she will never go away, and if you don’t know what he is talking about, one knows nothing about love with nice guitar riffs and fills. Learn How To Love You Again is a country waltz with Reiersrud evoking a dobro at times. On Long Time Running, McClain sings about asking for forgiveness as he has turned things around and “would you still love me if I failed once more, would you deny me the chance to touch your soul … .” The similarity to King Solomon is evident on I Don't Feel Noways Tired, with its religious message, “Nobody told him the road would be easy, I don’t believe he brought me this far to leave me,” with some churchy organ from David Wallumrød on this striking performance.
Much can be said about the production and the splendid Norwegian musicians on this. The musicianship is impeccable and the restraint in the spare accompaniments on these performances keep the listener’s focus on McClain who is singing as well as he ever has. It perhaps was fortuitous chance that McClain and Reiersrud met collaborating on the recording Scent of Reunion, by Iranian artist Mahsa Vahdat. One consequence of this meeting is this exceptional recording that one would hope might help Mighty Sam reach a level of recognition and acclaim his talents deserve, and hopefully a chance to hear him and guitarist Reiersrud here in North America.
My review was from downloads provided by a publicist for Valley Vue and it can be obtained from Valley Vue along with some of Mighty Sam's earlier recordings.