The DogTown Blues Band – “Search No More” (RVL Music, Sept. 15)
First, an apology to Richard Lubovitch, DogTown bandleader, guitarist, and producer of this fine album (and everyone else involved). He sent me this release at the end of August, but I kept delaying this review because — well, I don’t really have an excuse. So here it is.
“Search No More” is the Los Angeles band’s third album, all blues-based, but with a few of their own inventive musical twists and turns thrown in.
They’ve taken some blues chestnuts and roasted them over a somewhat more mellow West Coast fire, and added one Lubovitch original. The result is an interesting and enjoyable blend of blues, jazz, classic R&B with the smoke of a little rock ‘n’ roll.
The band is an equally enjoyable blend of seasoned veterans from diverse backgrounds: There’s Lubovitch on guitar (himself a 30-year vet of the Chicago blues scene), Kaspar Abbo on vocals, Bill Barrett on chromatic harmonica and vocals, Wayne Peet on organ, piano and keyboards, Trevor Ware on upright bass, and Lance Lee on drums. Special guest Marcus Watkins contributes guitar on tracks 5,6 and 10.
The album kicks off nicely with a swinging version of Percy Mayfield’s “Cooking in Style,” with Barrett on harp and vocals. “River’s Invitation,” another lyrical Mayfield effort, gets a smooth vocal turn from Abbo. Both lead the way into into the rest of the songs, a fusion of talent and styles that make for a tasty, well-balanced musical meal.
Vocalist Kaspar Abbo tackles six of the nine vocals on this session, with smooth interpretations of the title track, Jimmie Dotson’s classic “Search No More,” Wille Dixon’s tough “ You Shook Me,” ” River’s Invitation ” the historic rocker “Miss Ann” by Enotris Johnson/Richard Penniman (that’s Little Richard, of course, and Johnson was the husband of the Miss Ann who took him in as a youngster.), Tom Johnston’s (The Doobie Brothers) “Long Train Coming,” and Billy Hill’s classic R&B turn, “Glory of Love.” “All Night” is a chunky, funky Lubovitch instrumental original. Abbo lends vocal sophistication and smoothness to the group, even with a rocker like “Miss Ann.”
I have to digress a minute here to give special attention to DogTown’s outstanding cover of one of my all-time favorite songs by one of my all-time favorite groups. “Glory of Love” was written by Billy Hill in 1936, with a hit version that same year by the Benny Goodman Orchestra with Helen Ward on vocal. Since then it has been covered by pretty much everybody but me. But my favorite is the 1951 super-slow-dancing R&B/doo-wop version by the sensuous pipes of the Five Keys (formerly the Sentimental Four). It got to me a few years later when my hormone-fueled teen genes were turning very blue. There’s also a fine 1957 cover by the Velvetones, and a very bluesy acoustic rendition in ’57 by Big Bill Broonzy. You can skip the 1965 cover by Jimmy Durante, and go right to a very soulful version, with horns, by Otis Redding in 1968. (You can find most of these versions on YouTube.)
This DogTown version of “Glory of Love” finds Abbo’s vocals in fine form, with meticulous piano by Wayne Peet.
DogTown’s motto is: “We like to put a little jazz in our blues, and a little blues in our jazz.” They do all that and more on this excellent album. Try it late at night with a snifter of Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon. You’ll never slow dance the same way again.
Here’s “Search No More,” by the DogTown Blues Band
Track list and credits:
“COOKING IN STYLE”: Percy Mayfield: Featuring Bill Barret on Vocals and Chromatic Harmonica
“RIVER’S INVITATION”: Percy Mayfield: Featuring Kaspar Abbo on Vocals
“YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT”: Paul Gayten: Featuring Bill Barrett on Vocals & Chromatic Harmonica
“YOU SHOOK ME”: Willie Dixon: Featuring Kaspar Abbo on Vocals & Richard Lubovitch on Guitars
“ALL NIGHT”: Richard Lubovitch: Featuring Richard Lubovitch on Guitar
“SEARCH NO MORE”: Jimmy Dotson: Featuring Kaspar Abbo on Vocals & Marcus Watkins on Lead Guitar
“MISS ANN”: Enotris Johnson/Richard Penniman: Featuring Kaspar Abbo on Vocals
“GLORY OF LOVE”: Billy Hill: Featuring Kaspar Abbo on Vocals & Wayne Peet on Piano
“I WONDER”: Cecil Gant; Featuring Bill Barrett on Vocals & Chromatic Harmonica
‘LONG TRAIN COMING”: Tom Johnston: Featuring Kaspar Abbo on Vocals, Bill Barrett on Chromatic Harmonica, Richard Lubovitch & Marcus Watson on many guitars.