Roadhouse Album Review: Douglas Avery puts a lifetime of creativity into his excellent first album “Take My Rider”

Douglas Avery — “Take My Rider” — Greenwave Music

A few days ago, I realized that I had let another new album that I enjoyed slip through the cracks between the Roadhouse floorboards. Someday I’ll get them fixed.

So, my apologies to Douglas Avery for this delay in writing about his inspired debut album, “Take My Rider.”

Avery seems to be a very talented multitasker, since he has also earned substantial props as a surfer and as a photographer. This first album of finely tuned mostly original blues also shows him to be a creative songwriter and first-rate practitioner of the Mississippi saxophone.

All of this began in the 1960s, when Avery turned his childhood musical interests into a passion for the LA jazz scene.

The ’70s found him learning the blues harp, but also riding a new wave as a surfer and a stellar surf photographer, which led to a career as an internationally known fashion and sports photographer.

Those musical talents kept simmering, and finally, in 2019, after encouragement from fellow musicians, Avery pulled together the music and bandmates to make this album happen. Those mates include Carl Sonny Leyland on piano, Franck Goldwasser on guitar and Johnny Morgan on drums. A horn section of Aaron Liddard, saxophone; Jerome Harper, trombone; and Simon Finch, trumpet, adds a musical texture that complements Avery’s highly personal style. Avery even released the session on his own GreenWave record label.

But after all of that, what about the music?

It’s simply great. Avery knows how to create an evocative lyric, how to work his vocals, and how to add some greasy harp for just the right flavor.

The session opens with a steady rolling shuffle, “Bad Luck Blues,” an uptempo Billy Boy Arnold cover. The title track is next — a lyrical step into the dark side of the blues fueled by traditional guitar licks, snaky harp and an ominous vocal turn.

“Malibu Burnin'” takes a hook from recent fiery events and turns it into tough percussive blues with “ashes fallin’ like rain,” and “Just Keep Loving Her” is a jaunty, harp-fueled cover of the Little Walter tune. “Jelly Jelly” creates a delicious acoustic serving from the timeless menu of blues “jelly” lyrics. “Blind Owl Boogie” romps with harp and guitar challenging each other; “How Long Can This Last” rocks hard over a chorus of sharp horns, and a too-brief “Leaving Trunk” is just Avery caressing his harp with understated passion.

Avery takes a funky turn with some chromatic harp on “Good To Me;” Carl Sonny Leyland’s rollicking piano drives John Mayall’s “Sonny Boy, Blow!” with the urgency of a locomotive barreling down the tracks, and “Safety First” chugs along with horns, piano and harp as the hard-driving wheels. “Riding With The Devil” is another boogie on down to the moody blues, with a gorgeous acoustic guitar introduction.

The album wraps with the final two cuts offering a major shift in style and mood: The jazzy instrumental (with Avery’s spoken benediction) “Green Wave” features Avery waxing lyrically on flute, and the closer is some love and hope in the form of a lyrical ballad, “Looking Over A Rainbow,” with Avery romanticizing over Leyland’s elegant piano.

Douglas Avery is one of those rare musicians who creates a style and mood all his own and fulfills that vision in his music. “Take My Rider” is a splendid first album filled with finely crafted music that’s obviously been aged like good whiskey and served very neat. Give this one a careful listen. And let’s hope there’s more to come.

Here’s a thoughtful interview with Douglas Avery on the Michael Limnios Blues Network 

Here’s a video of “Take My Rider”:

01. Bad Luck Blues (4:34)
02. Take My Rider (5:13)
03. Malibu Burnin’ (4:15)
04. Just Keep Lovin’ Her (2:01)
05. Jelly, Jelly (5:00)
06. Blind Owl Boogie (3:13)
07. How Long Can This Last? (6:03)
08. Leaving Trunk (1:59)
09. Good to Me (4:30)
10. Sonny Boy, Blow! (4:35)
11. Safety First (4:50)
12. Riding with the Devil (6:46)
13. Green Wave (3:38)
14. Looking over a Rainbow (6:03)

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