Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Memphis Livin' reviewed by Rick Davis

Memphis Livin'

Billy Lavender

I55 Productions LLC / TuneCore

14 Tracks

While growing up in Memphis, Billy Lavender was influence by artists like Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix. Learning from some of the masters, he developed one of the best blues and R&B guitar styles in town. He recently joined with his friend Steve Bryson of I55 Productions LLC to produce one incredible cd with an all-star cast.

Joining Lavender are Brad Webb on rhythm and slide guitars, dobro, sitar, and backing vocals, Tony Adams on drums, percussion, and vocals, Dan Cochran on bass, Maria Spence on back-up vocals, Russell Wheeler on the Hammond B-3 organ, piano, and strings, Reba Russell on vocals and back-up vocals, Blind Mississippi Morris on harmonica, Ken Dinkins on vocals, Vince Johnson on harmonica and vocals, Mike Stoker on bass guitar, and JoJo Jefferies on back-up vocals.

The opening number "Singing The Blues" now gets air time, featuring Tony Adams on vocals and Lavender and Webb tearing it up on guitar. "Let's Party" really rocks with Reba Russell, one of the hottest blues singers today. You can get a sample of just how good Billy Lavender can play guitar on this number with Blind Mississippi on Harmonica. Ken Dinkins steps up to the microphone on the next R&B smash "Tonight" with a sweet blend of Lavender's guitar and Wheeler's B-3 organ. Vince Johnson is featured on harmonica on the funky original "Just Chillin". Johnson continues on vocals with "Cold As Ice" sounding like the great Sugar Blue on harmonica. "Get Along" is one of the few cuts featuring Lavender on vocals with Webb backing him with his boogie woogie style piano. This one will get you on your feet in a hurry. The next number "Blue", one of the best cuts on the cd, features the sultry voice of Reba Russell blended with the sound of Brad Webb's sitar. Vince Johnson absolutely smokes on harmonica and vocals on the shuffle "Shake It" with Lavender coming in on guitar and Dan Cochran keeping a strong bass technique throughout. The band slows things down again with "Bottom Line" featuring the powerful voice of Reba Russell. The entire band is very strong on this song as they are throughout the entire album. Tony Adams comes right back growling on vocals with almost a swamp boogie opening on "Bad Boy" with Lavender hotter than ever on guitar. Johnson steps back to the microphone with the minor key blues number "3AM" forlorn because his "baby" has not returned home. Russell Wheeler brings out his incredible talent on the B-3 with Billy Lavender playing his lonely guitar solos. Lavender returns to the vocal mic in "All The People" with a host of back-up vocals. With Brad Webb playing the dobro and Lavender again blending his vocals with other back-up vocals "If I Could" almost sounds like a number written for the Fab Four. This remarkable cd closes with Tony Adams belting out "Delta Time" much like an early Cream blues number with Billy Lavender matching an Eric Clapton style guitar solo.

This Memphis style album of soul, R&B, and blues would get my nomination for best blues album of year! I would have to say this one sizzles!!!

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