Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mighty Sam McClain Finds Too Much Jesus and Not Enough Whiskey

One of the finest of the blues and soul vocalists that are working in the vein pioneered by great singers like Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and the late Solomon Burke is Mighty Sam McClain. McClain had a new CD Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey) (Mighty Music) that was produced by Gerry Putnam, Pat Herlehy and Mighty Sam McClain. The 14 originals have the singer backed by a band that includes a killer band that includes Pat Herlehy – guitar, tenor sax, flute, clavinet, Hammond B-3, strings, percussion and drums; Chad Owen – bass; Rick Page – drums; Joe Deleault – piano, organ, Fender Rhodes; Scott Shetler – tenor sax, baritone sax; Russell Jewell – trombone; Grayson Farmer – trumpet; and Concetta – background vocals. The recording features arrangements by Herlehy, with horn arrangements by Shetler and Herlehy.

This particular recording has more of a straight southern soul feel than some of his other recordings such his recent collaboration with Norwegian guitarist Knut Reiersrud, One Drop Is Plenty (Valley Vue). The grooves on this new release are funkier and the horns are more prominent with less blues-styled guitar. This tone is set on the opening Wish You Well, with a brief sax solo as McClain sings about wishing one well when their short romance has run. Missing You in contrast has him singing about his regrets about another relationship that ran its course although as he prays to God to make things clear about what went wrong. 

Feel So Good is a funky number where McClain sings about “grooving on your love and getting ready to land on your heart.” Stand Up! is a message song about standing up for the children, together and for love, with nice guitar fills and punchy horns. Real Thing has an intriguing mix of sacred and secular in its lyrics while Use Me is song of praise where Sam thanks the Lord for all he has given Sam. Other songs also deal with relationships as being what God planned such as So Into You, or a more direct gospel message on Wake Up Call, although the title song has an interesting take about someone losing their friends because the only thing on their mind was too much Jesus on their mind and not enough fun in their lives. Herlehy’s arrangement is quite ingenious with the atmospheric employment of strings. 

Even as he urges everyone to get on the floor on the closing Dance there is reference to the higher power. At the same time, there is never anything contrived or forced about the performances here. The songs are sung with completely authority and the backing is solid and full. The result is another marvelous Mighty Sam McClain recording.

I received a review copy from a publicist. Here is a clip of Might Sam in performance.

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