Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Change Our Ways reviewed by Mark Thompson

Change Our Ways
Root Doctor
Big O Records
10 tracks/53:00

The initial release from Root Doctor was a strong collection of blues and soul tunes. Their new recording is more of the same, with six original songs from band members and four quality covers. The band has a solid foundation from veterans James Williams on bass and Rick Bole on drums. Greg Nagy is a tasteful guitar player. Jim Alfredson is a master of the Hammond organ.

Freddie Cunningham is the focal point of the group with his masterful lead vocals. He has a deep, powerful tone that can glide through a love song or dig deep into the emotional well on a scorcher. Listen to him on the opening track, “Blues Will Take Good Care of You”. Alfredson lays down a percolating organ track on his original as Cunningham’s vocal smoothly relates the power of a blues record. The jaunty “Keep Our Business Off the Streets” is a cautionary tale from Nagy and Alfredson that is one of three tracks to feature the Motor City Horns. Nagy supplies a fine guitar solo.

Cunningham co-wrote “Give Me Love” and that may be why he lays down one
of his stronger vocals performances. He is even better on “Lucky One”. Here he shows that he is a skilled soul singer, his voice full of emotion and strength, able to easily soar into the higher end of range as needed.

As good as the originals are, the band once again shows it’s knack for taking well-known tunes and giving them the Root Doctor treatment. Roy Hightower’s “Root Doctor” is a natural choice and Cunningham’s vocal has the right mixture of menace and seduction. The rhythm section gets to strut it’s stuff , laying down a deep groove on a cover of the Meter’s classic “People Say”. Alfredson takes the vocal and dominates the proceedings with his driving organ work.
Even better is a superb version of “Soul Shine”, a classic written by Warren Haynes. Cunningham manages to convey the world-weary resignation in the lyrics while still expressing the hope of a better day. Listen to him testify at the end of the track.

The disc closes with a stunning performance of “I Wish It Would Rain”. Alfredson leads off on piano as the only support for Cunningham’s passionate vocal . The basic accompaniment allows the listener to really hear the superb ability that Cunningham has to generate just the right amount of emotion in his singing. He never shows off or pushes too hard. And just when you expect the band to join in, you instead get a cello and violin plus some subdued backing vocals. The focus is on Cunningham for six minutes and he is up to the task.

Root Doctor should continue to gain national attention from this recording. The talent of Cunningham and Alfredson set them apart from many other bands seeking the spotlight. Go to their website and check this one out. I’m betting that you’ll like it as much as I do !!!

No comments: