Monday, January 23, 2012

Phantom Blues Band's Deep Footprints

The Phantom Blues Band has returned with a new disc full of bluesy old school sounds, Footprints (Delta Groove). First attracting notice for their work with Taj Mahal, there Delta Groove debut, Out of the Shadows, drew further attention, while the band’s members are in demand for various touring acts and recordings, so that guitarist Denny Freeman, now part of Bob Dylan’s touring band) only appears on several of tracks here. The rest, Mike Finnigan, vocals and keyboards; Johnny Lee Schell, vocals and guitar; Larry Fulcher, vocals and bass; Joe Sublett, saxophone; Darrell Leonard, trumpet; and Tony Braunagel, drums, are such a strong unit even without Freeman’s fine playing.

The rhythm section lay down the groove, the horns mix taut riffs and the soloists keep things fresh and concise. Despite the name, this band mixes in southern soul along with straight blues. It opens with Finnigan covering Howard Tate’s Look at Granny Run, while displaying his versatility on the classic ballad, Cottage For Sale. His rendition of Ray Charles’ classic blues, A Fool For You, is nicely done although not far removed from Charles’ original. He shows himself to be quite a good interpreter of Charles here.

Schell reworks Freddy King’s See See Baby as well as a nice bit of Rufus Thomas funk, Fried Chicken, although he is not as strong a singer here. Exceptional is his vocal on Darrell Leonard’s A Very Blue Day, with a nice trumpet solo and an evocative melody that evokes Horace Silver and Herbie Hancock. Fulcher treats us to Earl Randle’s deep soul ballad, Leave Home Girl and his reggae-flavored When the Music Changes is a stunning closer.

Not a poor truck and some exceptional ones by a band that sounds incapable of putting out anything but solid recordings.

This review was written for Jazz & Blues Report although I do not believe it ran. I believe I received a review copy from a publicist. I posted my review of Out of the Shadows on December 31, 2011. Here is a video of them.

No comments: