Saturday, February 16, 2008

Low on Cash, Rich in Love reviewed by Mark Thompson

Low on Cash, Rich in Love
Eric Lindell
Alligator Records
12 tracks/46:18

After establishing itself as possibly the Blues record label, Alligator has been branching out in recent years. They have released several recordings by former Stray Cat bassman Lee Rocker, one by swamp rocker J. J. Grey & Mofro and now this second disc from the eclectic Eric Lindell. Some purists may feel that the company is abandoning the Blues but these efforts are undoubtedly a necessary move to help Alligator survive in a market of shrinking cd sales.

Lindell is a singer/songwriter deserving of the support that Alligator can provide. A California native, Eric moved to New Orleans in 1999. He immersed himself in that city's diverse musical community, creating a unique blend of blues, funk, soul, swamp rock and New Orleans R&B. The key element is Lindell's thick, expressive voice that drips soul with every note he sings. He has that hard-to-describe edge in his vocals that often conjure visions of a youthful Delbert McClinton - somewhat raw, yet smooth and soulful. He wrote five of the songs on this recording and co-wrote six others with band members Chris Mule (guitar) and Aaron Wilkinson (bass). Every track makes a strong musical statement. Several suffer a bit from simplistic lyrics but Lindell's voice elevate all of the material to generate a fine listening experience.

The disc opens with "Lay Back Down," a blue-eyed soul ballad driven by cascading notes on the guitar. Mark Adams on organ and a horn section expertly frame Lindell's pleading vocal. Next is the title track, a serious slab of funk guaranteed to get your body moving. Things settle into a slow churning rock groove on "Mind Your Business" with Mule on slide guitar and some riffs that would be right at home on a Rolling Stones track.

Other highlights include "Tried and True," a roots-rock number with some fine harmonizing -- and the one cover tune, "Lady Day and John Coltrane," from the pen on Gil Scott-Heron. Lindell alternates between a high energy vocal and some spirited harmonica work. "Miss What I Got" is the kind of performance that have some people comparing Eric to Van Morrison. Jimmy Carpenter contributes a fine tenor sax solo.

"It's My Pleasure" is bluesy rocker with Mule shining on guitar with two fine solos. Lindell invokes the memory of Junior Wells on "I Got a Girl" which is the one true blues track on the disc. Lindell again plays harp but more in a country style than the driving Chicago mode that Wells favored On "It's a Pity," Eric lays down his view of the state of New Orleans over a wah-wah guitar and Adams' driving organ on another funk workout.

This is a strong release from start to finish -- with plenty of variety in the music and a number of stirring vocal efforts from Lindell. Recorded at the Piety Street Studio in New Orleans, the disc has superb sound. This release could be the ticket to garner Lindell and his band the attention that they deserve. It is a fine recording that that holds up over repeated listens. Check it out for yourself - Eric is the real deal.

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