Live at the Kessler
Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat is a Dallas Texas blues-infused rock and roll and roots band based out of Dallas, Texas. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Suhler and the and have been together over two decades and had four albums on Lucky Seven and two prior ones on underworld while Suhler had a solo acoustic release on Topcat. The band includes Jim Suhler (guitar, vocals), Chris Alexander (bass, vocals), Shawn Phares (keyboards) and Beau Chadwell (drums, percussion). On the new release, "Live at the Kessler" they are joined by Tim Alexander on keyboards and Tex Lovera on cigar box guitar. Heard on these live performances from the Dallas venue are 13 songs that originally appeared on the studio albums, "Panther Burn," "Tijuana Bible," "Bad Ju Ju" and the solo acoustic "Dirt Road," plus two new songs, “Doin’ the Best I Can” and “Reverie.”
There is plenty to like from Suhler's straight-forward, heartfelt vocals along with his strong guitar playing that is crisp and focused, leading one to understand why he plays lead guitar with George Thorogood. His band provides tight, well-paced backing adding to the enjoyment of the songs which range from strong rollicking original blues shuffles like "I Declare" and the rollicking "Scattergun" (with some solid slide guitar); the slide-drenched blues-rock of "Panther Burn"; the gritty rootsy depiction of a border city in "Tijuana Bible"; the wistful bluesy feel of "Deja Blue" (with some Tex-Mex flavored accordion in the backing); the Traveling Wilbury's feel of his celebration of the Gulf Coast in "Texassippi"; and his affectionate tribute to Lightnin' Hopkins, "Po' Lightnin'."
There is not a poor moment in "Live at the Kessler," and so good to hear Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat still doing it so well today.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared originally in the September- October 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 367). Here is a video of Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat performing.