A Winning Hand
West Tone Records
The Lucky Losers are singer Cathy Lemons and singer-harmonica player Phil Berkowitz backed by a strong band on a program of blues, rhythm and blues classics and blues-rooted rock, "A Winning Hand" (West Tone Records). The backing band includes Marvin Greene and Kid Andersen (with Steve Freund on one track); Steve Evans, Steve Hazelwood or Joe Kyle on bass; Robi Bean or Jay Hansen on drums; and Chris Burns or Kevin Zuffi on keyboards with horns added to a couple of selections. Lemons and Berkowitz each contribute three originals (Berkowitz's were co-written by Danny Caron and there are six covers.
About her 2014 VizzTone album "Black Crow" I observed that "Bay area singer Cathy Lemons brings a rich plate of musical gems including blues and blues-infused rock in a fashion that might suggest Bonnie Raitt." I was impressed by the the "natural, relaxed and soulful quality" of her vocals and am further impressed on that account here as well as how well she and Berkowitz complement each other. While the originals, including the opening Berkowitz-Caron number "Change in the Weather" display this with its soulful flavor, the renditions of the Sam and Dave classic "I Take What I Want" and the Brooks Benton-Dinah Washington golden oldie "Baby, You Got What It Takes," maybe best showcase this as they bring warmth and plenty of humor as well to the later number (which also benefits from Berkowitz's horn-like harp playing. It is interesting to hear a male and female handle the Sam and Dave number, providing a different tenor to the lyrics.
The duo also do a marvelous rendition of a lesser know Allen Toussaint number "What is Success," while Lemons rendition of her original "Suicide By Law" has a bit of whimsy in the jazz-tinged sophisticated vocal. In contrast, her "Detroit City Man," is a driving styled boogie rocker musically evocative of a seventies John Lee Hooker recording with some choice harp backing from Berkowitz while Andersen adds stinging guitar fills as Lemons sings about a wrong doing man. Lemons wrote title track, a number that has to these ears the feel of a Crosby, Nash and Young number.
While the spotlight is on Lemons and Berkowitz, the splendid backing is noteworthy with the light, unhurried feel that contributes to the pleasures in listening to this. There is not a bad moment on this recording. While Lemons and Berkowitz may call themselves The Lucky Losers, they have provided listeners a royal flush with "A Winning Hand."
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review was written in 2015 for Jazz & Blues Report but it did not run. Here The Lucky Losers perform an Allen Toussaint tribute.
Received from Frank Roszak