One of the challenges of life is dealing with change. For musical groups, replacing a key member can be a traumatic event that upsets the existing group dynamics. On their latest release, the Andy T Band serves up convincing proof that change isn’t necessarily a disruptive force. Guitarist Andy Talamantez joins up with producer Anson Funderburgh to make sure all the pieces continue to fit together
After six years, lead singer Nick Nixon made the decision to retire due to health issues. Appearing on half of the tracks, his voice still packs plenty of power on the Chick Willis classic, “I Feel So Bad,” while offering up a heartbreaking plea on “Juanita” over a horn-driven arrangement featuring Kaz Kazanoff on tenor sax, John Mills on baritone sax, and Al Gomez on trumpet. On Goree Carter’s “Drunk Or Sober,” his soulful vocal glides along on a rhumba-style rhythm from Jim Klinger on drums and Johnny Bradley on bass, accented by hearty solos from Andy T and Kazanoff. ”Deep Inside” features Nixon on vocals and Greg Izor who adds a slick and somewhat greasy harp to the cut, his lone appearance here on the CD.
The band’s new member, Alabama Mike Benjamin, has been singing the blues on the West coast for the last eighteen years, with three critically praised recordings under his own name. His raw, shouting style opens the disc on a high note on “I want You Bad,” as the driving shuffle serves as a launching pad for Andy T’s stinging guitar. Talamantez’s original, “Dream About You,” is another high energy romp with Benjamin and Andy T sharing the spotlight. Guest keyboardist Mike Flanigin on organ adds another layer of complexity to Nixon’s “Sad Times”. Another standout is “Doin’ Hard Time,” with Benjamin expertly crying the blues surrounded by the horns, Funderburgh on the second guitar solo, and Larry Van Loon’s tasty piano fills.
In Alabama Mike, Andy T has added a vocalist with the requisite talent to carry on the legacy of the Nick Nixon era while adding some unique flair to the band, which rolls along in high gear throughout this excellent recording. The contrast in styles of Andy T and Alabama Mike are interesting to compare here. Both do truly outstanding work in their own way. Nick is smooth and soulful while Mike has more of an “in your face” style of shouting. Each are unique and both make wonderful music to compliment Andy T and the rest of the talented artists here. Get a copy of this one; you will not be disappointed!