Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Falling Through the Cracks reviewed by Mark Thompson

Falling Through the Cracks
Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones
Mighty Tiger Records
15 tracks/70:46

It has been seven years since guitarist Doug Deming released his first Mighty Tiger recording, Double Down. During that time, he and the Jewel Tones have been playing dates in the Detroit area as well as backing a variety of well-known blues musicians. If you can judge a musician by the friends that appear on his recording, Deming is held in high esteem. Guests include Kim Wilson and Dennis Gruenling on harmonica, the veteran Bill Heid on keyboards for five tracks and Al Hill, leader of Bettye Lavette’s band, on piano on one cut. The Jewel Tones - Bob Connor on bass and Julian VanSlyke on drums - provide in-the-pocket accompaniment throughout the recording.

The proceedings get off to a rockin’ start with “Tonight is the Night”. Deming’s vocal is strong and assured - his voice has grown richer and more powerful. Dennis Gruenling ignites the track with a mesmerizing harp solo. Not to be outdone, Deming fires off his own incendiary solo, alternating thick chords with rapid single note runs on his guitar. Things slow way down on the title track as Deming pleads with his lover not to give up on their relationship. His taut, biting fretwork brings to mind the late Magic Sam. Wilson contributes his usual stellar harp work on the up-tempo “Momma Didn’t Raise No Fool” with Deming adding one of Magic Sam’s signature licks in his solo. Heid makes his first appearance on “You’ve Changed”, burning up the keyboard on his Hammond organ over a cool shuffle rhythm from VanSlyke.

The band slips into a tough Chicago sound for “Only Time Will Tell”. Doug gets a gritty tone from his guitar, Hill’s piano fills the arrangement and Wilson takes honors for another inventive harp workout. “East Side Hop” is a jump blues instrumental that has Gruenling, Deming and VanSlyke trading solos after a hot, swinging solo from Doug that amply demonstrates how talented a guitar player he is. Gruenling wails away on his harp over a shuffle groove on “Whisper”. The following track, “I Can’t Believe My Eyes”, is a Texas-style rocker that sounds like a lost Fabulous Thunderbirds tune, with Kim Wilson on board for added authenticity. The closing number, the instrumental “Heiding Out”, is a funky jazz piece with Heid again commandeering the Hammond organ, at one point holding a note for several measures before erupting into a dazzling run across the keyboard.

Three tracks feature a horn section comprised of Keith Kaminski on saxophones, Dwight Adams on trumpet and John Rutherford on trombone. On “It Was the Wine” , Deming’s guitar tone and attack bring to mind Johnny Watson. The horns serve as a nice contrast to Deming’s sensitive vocal on the ballad “Every Night About This Time”. Deming gets a cool, swinging feel on “No Sense”, a tale of a hipster living beyond his means that features a hot solo from Kaminski on tenor sax.

One song - “Don’t Worry Me” - has two parts with radically different approaches on each version. The initial run-through is taken at a fast tempo with Dave Morris, formerly of Microwave Dave & the Ultrasonic, on harmonica trading licks with Deming’s guitar. The second version recasts the tune in a slow, blues vein with Wilson’s harp the only backing for Deming. They go deep into the blues, Wilson’s mournful harp tones and Deming’s dark vocal making this track a special performance.

This package makes it clear that Doug Deming is a multi-faceted musician with talents that extends beyond his instrumental prowess. He served as the producer for this project, wrote all of the material and did the horn arrangements, expertly mixing styles , tempos and guitar tones into a coherent package that delights from start to finish. This one is highly recommended !!!

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