Billy Price – Alive And Strange
Nola Blue/VizzTone Record Group VT-NB003
11 songs – 61 minutes
Pennsylvania-based vocalist Billy Price follows up on his 2015 release, This Time For Real – his recording with the late Otis Clay, which won Blues Blast Music Award and Blues Music Award honors as soul-blues album of the year – with this album, which picks up where that release left off and doesn’t lose a step.
But that shouldn’t be any surprise for the man who was officially designated a Pittsburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend last year. This is the 17th release in his career, which began in the mid-‘70s, when he served as vocalist for Roy Buchanan, appearing on two of the guitar legend’s most popular recordings. He’s been fronting his own bands and touring the world, delivering smooth, unhurried music ever since.
Recorded live in his hometown primarily at Club Café with one cut captured at Carnegie Mellon University School Of Music, Alive And Strange features Price — an electrifying tenor who holds his own when compared to other soul-blues giants – backed by his hard-driving band: guitarist Steve Delach, drummer David Ray Dodd, bassist Tom Valentine, keyboard player Jim Britton and tenor sax player Eric DeFade. They’re augmented by guest appearances by Joe Herndon on trumpet, Matt Ferrero on saxes and David Avery and DeWayne Chandler on backing vocals. Bassist Jason Hollar and trombone player Bob Matchett each sit in for one cut.
The album consists of two originals and nine carefully, but comfortably rearranged covers, kicking off with “It Ain’t A Juke Joint Without The Blues,” a tune written by Southern soul superstar Carl Sims. It’s a crowd-pleaser with lyrics that describe all of the essentials you’ll find in a juke – from a 40-ounce beer on the table and a trash-talking woman named Mabel to food in the kitchen gettin’ hot and a fight breakin’ out in the lot.
“Lifestyles Of The Poor And Unknown” — a tasty song of lost love from William Bell’s extensive songbook — follows before the Price original, “Something Strange,” about a mysterious place where you’re guaranteed to enjoy yourself restores the good-time feel. Bobby “Blue” Bland’s cautionary “This Time I’m Gone For Good” is up next before another ballad, Mighty Mike Schermer’s “One More Day,” which urges a lady to hold until he returns to her arms.
Five more romance-themed covers follow. Percy Mayfield’s “Nothing Stays The Same Forever,” James Brown’s “Never Get Enough,” Magic Sam’s “What Have I Done Wrong” and the Godfather Of Soul classic “Lickin’ Stick” precede take on jump-blues legend Roy Milton’s “R.M. Blues” before the Price-original bonus track, “Makin’ Plans.” Recorded at Carnegie Mellon, it’s a bittersweet tale about making love to a woman at the same time she was strategizing the end to the romance.
There’s nothing strange about Alive And Strange except the album title. Available through most major retailers, it’s stylish, sweet and certain to keep you grooving on the dance floor. If you’re a fan of soul-blues and R&B, this one’s definitely for you.