Roadhouse Album Review: Silent Partners celebrate a different era with excellent “Changing Times”

Silent Partners — “Changing Times” — Little Village

The three soulful veterans who make up the Silent Partners are the renowned Tony Coleman (drums and vocals), Russell Jackson (bass and vocals) and Jonathan Ellison (guitar and vocals). They’ve all got decades of musical experience with some of the biggest names in blues — including B.B. King, Albert King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Johnnie Taylor, Otis Clay, Denise LaSalle, Matt “Guitar” Murphy — and it all shines brightly throughout.

The group itself isn’t exactly brand new. Coleman and Jackson recorded the Silent Partners’ first album, “If It’s All Night, It’s All Right” on the Antone’s Label in 1989. They had gotten together to back up swamp boogie piano queen Katie Webster, but broke up in 1990.

Then, almost 35 years later, Jim Pugh, who runs the Little Village Foundation persuaded the original Silent Partners Coleman and Jackson to get together again to record, and they added Ellison as the third man to their Silent Partner theme.

They’re joined here by Little Village musical team – producer and keyboardist Pugh, guitarist Kid Andersen, backing vocalist Lisa Lueschner Andersen, percussionist Vicki Randle, and adding violinist Don Dally, with string arrangements by Aaron Lington. The album was produced at Andersen’s Greaseland studio.

The result of all this veteran professionalism from sidemen who were silent partners to much great music is a finely tuned album of nine originals and one cover of B.B. King and The Crusaders’ “Never Make Your Move Too Soon,” written by Stix Hooper, the drummer in The Crusaders, and lyricist Will Jennings.

The originals run a soulful spectrum from the opening track, the slow and bluesy “Ain’t No Right Way To Do Wrong,” to the shuffling rhythms and stinging guitar of the wry social comment of “Post Traumatic Blues Syndrome,” to the extremely torchy and soulful “Road to Love,” and the group’s sorta-biographical take on the spirited version of “Never Make Your Move Too Soon.”

There’s a lot of great music after that, concluding with the tough “Beale Street Shuffle,” a romping sideways glance at the anthem-like “Sweet Home Chicago.”

This is an excellent album from these polished blues veterans, who, along with this crackling studio band, sound like they haven’t missed a beat since their 1989 effort. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait that long for the next one.

If you’re a Legendary Rhythm & Blues cruiser in January 2023, you’ll get to see them up close and personal. And where I’ll be in the audience with you.

Here’s a fascinating, lengthy interview with Tony Coleman

A live performance from Silent Partners (with Stanton Moore of New Orleans funk masters Galactic on drums) at the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, July 1, 2022.

Track Listing

  1. Ain’t No Right Way To Do Wrong
  2. Post Traumatic Blues Syndrome
  3. Road To Love
  4. Never Make Your Move Too Soon
  5. Dancin’ Shoes
  6. Love Affair With The Blues
  7. Proving Ground
  8. Teasing Woman
  9. Good To Myself
  10. Beale Street Shuffle

    Tony Coleman – drums, vocals (1, 2, 4, 9) all originals written by Tony Coleman, except 9 the lyrics are rewritten, original but music is written by Joe Sample & The Crusaders. Russell Jackson – bass, vocals (5, 6, 7) all originals written by Russell Jackson. Jonathan Ellison –guitar, vocals (3, 8, 10) all originals written by Jonathan Ellison. 

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