Tres Lobas Enterprises
10 songs – 42 minutes
The close relationship between blues and gospel on record dates at least as far back as Thomas A Dorsey and Blind Willie Johnson. Primarily secular blues artists like Charley Patton, Skip James and Blind Lemon Jefferson all recorded gospel songs. Son House struggled for years with what he perceived as the inherent conflicts between the Devil’s music and the music of the Lord, while the Rev. Gary Davis and more recently the likes of Pops and Mavis Staples have happily embraced the best of both genres. Devil Don’t Care, the debut album from Tulsa vocalist and harmonica player Steve Antry, aims for a similar niche, with gospel lyrics feeding into blues, rock and pop songs. And, on the whole, he succeeds admirably.
The eponymous opening track features some wonderful lead guitar over the top of a grinding shuffle. Antry has assembled a stellar band for Devil Don’t Care, packed with A-list players including bassist Michael Rhodes, steel player Dan Dugmore, drummer Greg Morrow, keyboardists David Smith and Mike Rojas, and guitarists Rob McNelley, Pat Buchanan, Danny Rader and Bret Mason (as well as Antry himself).
Guest artists on the album include the great Shaun Murphy, who adds magical vocal ad libs to three tracks (perhaps most notably on “Prince Of Peace”, which recalls Merry Clayton’s apocalyptic contribution to “Gimme Shelter”) and blues/rock guitarist Anthony Gomes who contributes raucous electric guitar to the 80’s pop-rock of “Devil Gone Fishing”.
Antry himself has a superb voice. The pop ballad of “Always With Me” accentuates its warmth whereas the heavy blues-rock of tracks like “How Far Down” demonstrate his muscular power and three-octave range (there’s also some beautiful a capella outro vocals from Murphy on that track).
Antry also co-wrote one song on the album, the title track (with producer, Peter Carson). The other songs are all covers, including a lovely reading of Frankie Miller and Jerry Lee Williams’ “Sending Me Angels”, as well as Leon Russell’s “Prince Of Peace”. The pop ballad “Always With Me” was written by Babyface and former Hootie & The Blowfish singer, Darius Rucker, while Jimmy Duncan’s 1957 mini-hit, “My Special Angel”, is given an 80’s-style heavy keyboard makeover. Gary Nicholson contributes two typically belting blues-rock songs, “How Far Down” (originally covered by John Mayall) and “Devil Gone Fishin’” (previously covered by Fortunate Sons).
If there is a conflict inherent in this album, it is not between blues and gospel. Rather, it is between the blues and rock leanings of “How Far Down”, “Devil Don’t Care”, “Get Up” and “Devil Gone Fishin’” and the anodyne, vapid pop of “Always With Me”, Dianne Warren’s “Borrowed Angels” and “Special Angel”. Antry and his band are significantly more effective in the former genre, laying down a series of powerful grooves. The poppy ballads, in comparison, come across as either too saccharine or too studied.
Overall however Devil Don’t Care is a very impressive debut release from Steve Antry. There is more than enough evidence here of a solid talent and it will be interesting to witness his next steps.