Big H Records – 2016
10 tracks; 40 minutes
When you hear the word ‘soul’ your thoughts turn to Memphis, Detroit and Philadelphia, not Norway, but there is a healthy soul-blues scene in Scandinavia and the latest album from the Billy T Band is an excellent example. The band has been around for twenty years, ever since William Troiani relocated from the States to Oslo. Billy had played and recorded with Eddie Kirkland and Tom Russell so it was natural that he should form the house band at the Oslo Muddy Waters Club, a gig that lasted seven years before the club closed. That house band has remained together unchanged with Billy on bass and lead vocals, Haakon Hoeye on guitar, organ and backing vocals, Ian F Johannessen on guitar and slide and Robert Alexander Pettersen on drums; Martin Windstad adds percussion to six tracks, Kristoffer Eikreim (trumpet) and Kasper Skullerud Vaernes (sax) and a six person string section appear on three tracks and two additional backing vocalists contribute to several tracks. Nine of the songs come from within the band, Billy involved in all of them and there is just one cover.
First and foremost Billy’s clear and soulful voice really suits this material and the playing throughout is excellent. The title track opens the album with the strings prominent on a soulful song about needing to keep on top of a relationship or problems will creep up on you. The obscure “Shame Shame” was a minor hit in the 60’s for The Mighty Hannibal and is the sole cover here, a fine piece of Rn’B pushed along by the horns and “On Your Own” adds some Delta influences, especially in Ian’s lively slide work. With the sweeping strings, delicate guitar touches and a fine vocal “Sad Man” is the standout cut on the album with a Philly soul feel and touching lyrics about the guy whose life has been broken by a departed lover: “People upstairs are making noise, they got something going on, dancing on my ceiling, laughing and having fun. Well, I’m down here in the darkness I’m emotionally unsound, I’d go up there to join them but that would only bring them down. Nobody wants the sad man hanging round.” The quality of Billy’s voice can be heard clearly on “One Of These Days” a mainly acoustic break-up song with nice choral vocals and some slide joining in half way through.
The strings make their final appearance on “Gone” which brings to mind The Temptations with the use of percussion and wah-wah. New Orleans drum rhythms lead into “It Ain’t Right” before “Love Is Gonna Get You” provides another highlight with a subtle horn arrangement and lyrics on the ‘you can run but you can’t hide’ theme, as however hard you try, the love bug will bite: “So self-sufficient, you don’t need no help. You can’t be happy, man, all by yourself. Pay no attention to that nagging doubt, no need to wonder what it’s all about. You can run, you can hide, but love’s gonna get you.” Billy’s vocals are great here and a fine guitar solo tops off this excellent track. The last two tracks take us down to Memphis: “Trouble” is another Rn’B tune, the guitar break referencing Steve Cropper and the album closes with “I’ve Been A Fool”, a song of regret and apology given a gospel feel by Haakon’s churchy organ.
Forget where this fine album originates; if you like soul-blues you will find plenty to enjoy here.