Pocket The Black; Live at Chapel Lane
LazyEye is an Australian blues trio consisting of Evan Whetter, vocals, organ and harmonica; Erica Graf, guitar and backing vocals; and Mario Marino, drums & backing vocals. Very popular and honored down-under, they competed in the Blues Foundation's 2016 International Blues Challenge. "Pocket The Black" was recorded live at the Chapel Lane Studio with a studio audience. This is not unprecedented as Otis Spann's Bluesway album, "The Blues Is Where It's At" was recorded with a studio audience. While noting a studio recording allows one to capture as close to perfect a performance and make overdubs to correct minor imperfections. However, given the live approach they chose for this recording the best 'feeling' takes rather than seek perfection.
This band is new to this reviewer, but the trio impressed, especially instrumentally from the first moments of "Keepin' From Lovin'," to the ending "Swing From Marz." This is not to take anything away from Whetter's very capable singing and Graf's very fine guitar playing. Her well thought out lines set against Whetter's punchy organ and Marino's crisp drumming stands out on these performances that are nicely paced and nicely balanced. The title track is a swinging shuffle with a nice use of billiard metaphors with a jazzy solo from Graf. "Let Me Down Easy" is not the Bettye Lavette soul classic, but an original slow blues with understated organ and marvelous guitar to support the grainy vocal. "Mucho Jalapeño" is an outstanding instrumental akin to Kenny Burrell's "Chitlins Con Carne," with a nice latin groove. Whetter provides some grease on the organ followed followed by Graf's carefully articulated, jazzy fretwork.
They call "Shack O' Mine" a tribute to Bo Diddley although the performance reminds these ears of Johnny Otis' "Willie and the Hand Jive" and Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," itself built on the famous "a shave and a haircut" beat. There is nice interplay between the band although the lyrics are somewhat inconsequential. "Do You Know How It Feels" is another slow blues, although perhaps the solos could been a bit more concise, perhaps a consequence of recording as a live performance. With Whetter on harmonica and Graf on acoustic guitar, the lazy "Treat Your Lover Right," has a nice Jimmy Reed styled feel. "It Ain't Right," has a spirited groove and unusual twists in its melodic line and the album closes with a jazzy "Swing For Marz," with some greasy B-3 and nice comping from Graf before she takes a sweet single note solo.
Listening to LazyEye here, one appreciates the fact that even when the tempo picks up as on "It Ain't Right," they never sound hurried or frantic. The ensemble sound is wonderful, drummer Marino stays consistently in the pocket and Whetter is a good, personable singer. This is quite an enjoyable recording and this writer would certainly enjoy more from them in the future.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 371). Here they are performing "Pocket The Black."