Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Joy reviewed by Steve Jones

Root Doctor featuring Freddie Cunningham

It’s been three years since we have seen a new CD from the Root Doctor.  A new band (Vocalist Freddy Cunningham and bassist James Williams remain, but the rest of the band is new) but the sound is a hot and electric as ever, telling  us the music scene in Lansing Michigan is deep and talented.

The CD opens with “Dark Eyes”, with a throbbing, urban beat.  While Cunningham’s fronting of the band is always a great thing to listen to, the new harp player Dave Machette really adds a lot of depth of sound to this cut and the next one.  He’s only on two tracks and I wish he was on more!  “Don’t Worry No More” is a slower cut, but offers a rich texture of traditional blues sounds, and the organ work by Mike Skory completely sells this one (as does the horn by Chad Bement).  Guitar by Bill Malone is steady here and throughout.  “Time Zone”, “Joy” and “Heavenly Faces” are throwbacks to bygone times and could easily be hot Motown Record cuts.

“Detroit City” is a special tune.  Slow, almost church-like, it really is a beautiful and tight song with nice the lead and backing vocals.  “Use This Love” has some cool barrelhouse piano and guitar riffs that impressed.  “Live for Yourself” is another jazzy and slower cut, with a nice piano line and some distorted, fuzzy guitar solo.  Cunningham is a stalwart singer, making every cut special, and the lyrics bemoan life’s situation aptly. 
The final cut is “Last Call”, but it really isn’t the final one as there is an extra “hidden” track that really is not so hidden.  “Last Call” gives us some nice pedal action on the guitar that just stings.  It would be a good closer, but the “It’s Cold Outside (And You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere)”  cut really serves to end the CD.  It’s old time honky tonk with a spooning duet by Cunningham and Jen Sygit. Bob Gardner deftly brushes the drums and cymbals as the duo trade off singing with rolling piano solos.

I really enjoyed this band.  The new Root Doctor offers great music like the earlier incarcerations of the band did.  Freddie Cunningham is a superb singer and a constant, but this new set of musicians are really great together, too.  Highly recommended!!!

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