Listening to Can You Hear The Music (True North Records), the new recording by the venerable Canadian blues band Downchild, one is struck by the sound and the pace of the music. Given the four decades plus Downchild has been around this should be no surprise, but it is also refreshing in this age of guitar shredders whose idea of nuance is only occasionally turning the volume dial on their guitar or amps down. Don Walsh with his guitar, harmonica and songs may be the axis about which Downchild revolves, but Chuck Jackson's gritty singing, Michael Fonfara's keyboards and Pat Carey's saxophone also standout while the bass of Gary Kendall and the drums of Mike Fitzpatrick lay out a tight rhythmic foundation. On several tracks they are joined by Peter Jeffery's trumpet.
The title track, a hot jump blues that musically evokes Louis Jordan’s classic, Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, kicks this set off. The easy rocking I'm Always Here For You, like the opening track, benefits from crisply arranged horns in addition to the band's solid groove. I Need a Woman musically suggests Little Richard’s Directly From My Heart, with Walsh's fuzz-tone guitar break complements the urgency imparted by the Jackson's vocal. Blue Moon Blues takes the band down into the alley, while Fasten Your Seat Belt is another hot jump blues with strong harp and a tough tenor sax solo.
After Walsh's jaunty slide guitar on The Road, there is a nice swampy feel about My Mississippi Queen where Jackson (who wrote this choice lyric) sings about meeting a lady near New Orleans who later one night caught the eye of everybody in every club on both sides of Beale Street before she broke his heart. She took his money but more when she took his heart it was the worst thing any woman can do. Walsh adds a strong harp solo to go with the strong lyric and backing resulting in quite a jewel of a performance.
There’s a full moon out and Downchild are on a rambling mood on the rocking shuffle Don’t Wait Up For Me, with Fonfara's rollicking piano accompaniment and Walsh's crisp, slide guitar break. Scattered, a jumping harmonica feature concludes a superbly played, and consistently entertaining blues recording.
I received my review copy from True North Records or a publicist. Here is a video of Downchild in action.