Let’s get right to it.
This is a terrific album. It’s a tribute to the legendary blues singer Bobby “Blue” Bland by his son, Rodd Bland, a drummer from his father’s band, and other musicians who had taken their turns in Bland’s unit.
It’s full of great music — excellent song choices that aren’t just a greatest hits collection. There’s exceptional vocal work from keyboardist Chris Stephenson, Ashton Riker and Jerome Chism.
And the Members Only Band (MOB), a tower of soulful blues power with not a false note anywhere, with plenty of fine ones. Plus a crackling horn section that kicks ass and takes names — their names being: Marc Franklin and Scott Thompson, trumpet; Kirk Smothers, saxophone.
The swinging “Up And Down World” kicks off the six-song live album with Stephenson’s smooth, soulful voice in command. It’s laced with those effervescent horns, rhythmically driven by Bland’s pulsing beat.
Riker takes over the vocals on the classic “St. James Infirmary” with dirge-like horns adding to the mystery and darkness of this traditional jazz/blues story.
Stephenson resumes the vocals on the soulful “Sittin’ On A Poor Man’s Throne,” a funky treat.
Chism takes a sly vocal turn on “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me),” wrapping himself in soaring horns. He keeps it up with the torchy blue “Soon As The Weather Breaks,” with a righteous guitar solo from Harold Smith. Then he wraps up the session with the funky blues “Get Your Money Where You Spend Your Time.”
Each track on this excellent album is a master class in musicianship, vocal styling and sparkling arrangement. It’s soulful blues done with the soulful part fully intact. As the title says, it’s a live album, and it captures the feeling of a performance pushed along by happy fans. It’s also tough to accomplish this kind of quality production in a live setting, but it’s all here.
My only complaint? There are only six songs. Play it twice. At least.
“Sittin’ on a Poor Man’s Throne”:
1. Up And Down World
2. St. James Infirmary
3. Sittin’ On A Poor Man’s Throne
4. I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me)
5. Soon As The Weather Breaks
6. Get Your Money Where You Spend Your Time
Libation tip: This review was partially fueled by a Dragon’s Milk White beer aged in bourbon barrels. Smooth as soul and just as bold.