Roadhouse Album Review: Gayle Harrod’s “Temptation” is a passionate affair

Gayle Harrod Band — “Temptation” — Self-Release

It’s one thing to wait until your 42nd year to begin a musical career. It’s still another to wait a dozen more years to cut your first album. And yet another to have it all sound thoroughly polished and professional — and best of all, have it sound so wondrously full of such passionate music.

Harrod, a native of Johnstown, Pa., but a Baltimorean since age 7, has spent those last dozen years sharpening her musical edge in a variety of bands and performances.

She began her public singing career in 2011 with the soul-blues band Triple Shot, then with classic rock-blues band Blues Deluxe, and the blues-R&B band Shakedown, before forming The Gayle Harrod Band.

The result of that lengthy woodshedding for Harrod is this dynamic album of 12 original songs that flow from rhythmic soul to fiery blues with a stylish ease that defies expectation for a debut effort.

Harrod boasts a powerful voice that commands your attention, whether she’s belting or pleading, and there’s plenty of both on this rousing session.

The driving rhythms of “Sweet Memphis Man” kick it all off to introduce the sweet toughness of Harrod’s vocals. “Come On People” punches out with Harrod urging us to “work to make things better.” “Baby We’re Through” is a scorching statement emphasizing its title theme with percussive urgency and fiery guitar.

The title track, “Temptation,” is a dark tale of devils and angels, told with Harrod’s brooding vocals. “In The Deep Dark Night,” is a bright romp that contradicts its title, including raucous horn work bringing some New Orleans flavor. “Bring Me Along” soars with gospel call and response, heavenly organ and rock-steady drumming.

Then Harrod shifts style and mood, with the plaintive blues, “Waiting In The Shadows,” sung with an eloquent vocal touch against elegant acoustic backing that’s just plain down-home gorgeous. A sparkling “Break” turns the mood around again with a jazzy Motown-infused ode to personal independence. “You’re Gonna Miss Me” is a tough rocker, followed by the gently lyrical “The In Between,” and then turned around into the sprightly “God Laughed.” The closer, “Beautiful Friend,” is another gorgeously introspective ballad, pulled from Harrod’s magic well of songwriting.

There are many excellent, enjoyable moments here, but the one element that stands out all the way through, no matter what the style or mood — Harrod’s voice. She swings, she rocks, she shouts, she whispers. There’s bluesy grit, smoldering soul and folksy innocence. She wears her musical heart on her sleeve. And all of it is surrounded with the riches of a remarkably versatile musical aggregation (see the full list below the video).

If this is just Gayle Harrod’s first album, I can’t wait to hear the next one.

An interview with Gayle Harrod on JazzBluesNews:

Sweet Memphis Man (3:05)
Come On People (3:53)
Baby We’re Through (4:01)
Temptation (4:57)
In The Deep Dark Night (2:53)
Bring Me Along (3:44)
Waiting in the Shadows (3:55)
Break (4:03)
You’re Gonna Miss Me (3:37)
The In Between (4:55)
God Laughed (4:10)
Beautiful Friend (5:02)

The musicians:
The basic Gayle Harrod Band is guitarist Stan Turk and drummer Chuck Ferrell. Guest performers on the album include guitarists Jonathan Sloane, Sol Roots, and Bobby Thompson; bassist Christopher Brown; Rachelle Danto on harmonica, and Brian Simms on piano and organ. Producer Buddy Speir adds guitar, slide, organ, and Wurlitzer. The Beltway Horns are Greg Boyer on trombone, Brad Clements on trumpet, and Brent Birckhead on tenor sax. Background vocals are by Mary Ann Redmond, Dusty Rose, and The Voices of Faith of the First Baptist Church of Baltimore Choir.

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