Roadhouse Album Review: Jeff Pitchell and friends play very well together on “Playin’ With My Friends”

Jeff Pitchell — “Playin’ With My Friends” — Deguello Records

Jeff Pitchell is a Connecticut-based guitar slinger, songwriter, vocalist and, based on his ninth and latest album, damned good at all of them.

And, as if he needed any help, he’s picked a handful of capable friends to pitch in here, both on vocals and as bandmates.

Included among those friends on duets and guest spots are Duane Betts, Charles Neville, Claudette King (B.B. King’s daughter, J. Geils, Rick Derringer, Christine Ohlman, and Tyrone Vaughan (Jimmie Vaughan’s son). His backers are, as they say, too numerous to mention, but a user-friendly chart at the end of this post will help you keep score.

The album shuffles joyfully into earshot with an original, the easy loping shuffle of “Eye For An Eye,” followed hard with a tough, rocking “Prisoner of Love,” highlighted by stinging guitar work from J. Geils. These two songs alone would send me home happy, showing off a sparkling blend of lyrical and musical chops.

But there’s a lot more, some of them reworked rom earlier sessions. “So Into You” turns down the tempo but not the mood, adding a sensual sax to the mix. Another original, “Your Magic Eyes” rocks with gentle fierceness highlighting the poetic imagery of the title. “Out In The Cold” is thoughtfully soulful, featuring Tyrone Vaughan on vocals and a guitar solo that speak the same language.

Duane Betts adds his guitar to “All Night Long,” a raucous boogie with raunchy sax that would rock any roadhouse (See what I did there?). Rick Derringer joins Pitchell in the swinging vocal and guitar duet, “Unsung Hero Of The Blues.” Lucky Peterson’s “Not Guilty” turns up with a little Latin flavor, followed with the rocky roughness “Blinded By Desire.”

“Fat Cigars,” the title track to Pitchell’s 1997 debut album that lit up his career, comes out smoking, and reminds me of one of my favorite personal vices. The R&B tinged “I Like The Rut” features Christine Ohlman (The lead vocalist for the Saturday Night Live Band from 1991 to 2022.).

Claudette King unleashes a tough vocal turn on the rocking blues of the title track, and Pitchell turns the soulful Bobby Bland lament, “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog,” into a soul-stretching closer.

Pitchell has brought together a stellar cast for “Playin’ With My Friends,” and the results speak, or rather sing, well of themselves. There’s a big bunch of thoroughly enjoyable music here, on all levels, from the splendidly varied vocals, to the wicked guitar and sax work, to the entire musical effort.

Well played, Jeff and friends, well played.

Here’s a video medley of some of the music on “Playin’ With My Friends”:

Tracklist and credits:

Eye for an Eye
Prisoner of Love
So into You
Your Magic Eyes
Out in the Cold
All Night Long
Unsung Hero of the Blues
Not Guilty
Blinded by Desire
Fat Cigars
I Like the Rut
Playin’ with My Friends
I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog

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