Tough Times Don’t Last is Grady Champion’s newest recording on his Grady Shady Music label. The 2010 International Blues Challenge winner is back with some new songs and supporting musicians that include Caleb Armstrong (guitar, production, string arrangements), Marquis Champion (bass), Lil Cal Jackson (drums), Nathan Keck (guitar), Chris Gill (guitar), Granard McClendon (guitar), Larry Addison (piano).
This opens with a shuffle “My Time Baby,” that has some nice harp from Grady. While the backing is solid and his harmonica is strong. His vocals lack the presence of his vocals, perhaps because the harmonica likely was overdubbed. Missing You is a blues ballad sung very soulfully with a touch of Sly and the Family Stone in the groove. Trust Yourself has a message of not giving up your soul to someone else, rather to be free one needs to trust oneself.” It would have been a stronger track with real horns instead of synthesized ones.
On Broke Cadillac, Grady sings that his relationship with his lady is like driving a broken down cadillac. His plays the guitar lead displaying a fuzzy tone but his playing would have benefited from more clarity. His guitar is stronger on the solid blues, co-written with Eddie Cotton, Things Ain’t What They Used To Be. The title track carries an optimistic message that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Cookie Jar is an amusing back door man song in the tradition of Little Johnny Taylor’s Open House At My House. Chris Gill adds 12 string acoustic guitar for Glory Train, a gospel blues on which Grady entreats people to give up their bad habits while the closing song, expresses his wishes for the holidays, What Would Christmas Be Without You.
The material is one of the strengths of this recording. Grady is in good voice and his harmonica playing is quite strong, the recording sounds like heavy overdubbing was used and the performances don’t come across as crisp as they might be otherwise. Tough Times Don’t Last would have benefited from less overdubbing as well as real horns instead of synthesized horns on a couple of tracks. It is enjoyable, but I suspect as Grady performs some of these songs, they will come across more potently.