Keyesland Music – DKR 1008
10 songs – 49 minutes
New York-based keyboard player Dave Keyes serves up a heaping dose of blues fused with boogie, R&B and zydeco for this release on his own label.
Keyes has been a busy man since winning top prize in the Blues Music Association’s International Blues Challenge competition in 2000. He’s worked as a sideman for the late folk-blues superstar and civil rights activist Odetta, Bo Diddley, Carl Weathersby, Chuck Berry, Gladys Knight, Sleepy LaBeef, Pam Tillis and David Johansen. Away he’s done time as musical conductor for the Grammy-winning Broadway Play, “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” and served as the house bandleader for The Ainsley Harriott Show on TV. And he’s toured both as a solo act, and, most recently, with Ronnie Spector.
Joining Keyes in the studio for this one were his rock-solid rhythm section, drummer Frank Pagano and bassists David J. Keyes and Sue Williams, as well as three special-guest guitarists: Dave Fields, Jeff Pevar and Popa Chubby, with whom Keyes often appears when their schedules allow. Rounding out the sound are guitarists George Naha, Chris Vitarello and Woody Mann, drummer Steve Rushton, bassist Gary Frazier, horn players Chris Eminizer (tenor sax), Tim Ouimette (trumpet) and John Hahn (trombone). Diane Cricchio and The Divas Redemption add backing vocals on one track.
Available through CDBaby, the energetic disc kicks off with “Here She Comes Again,” an uptempo five-minute shuffle about a heartbreaker on the move: “She’s gone, gone, gone/Where I don’t know/I don’t ask and she don’t tell/I don’t really need to know/All I can say is when she’s in my arms/I don’t want to let her go.” Chubby provides an extended guitar break mid-song, as he does on the next number, “You Think I Don’t Know.” It’s a sparkling modern blues about a love affair on the wane. Keyes’ vocals are crisp and powerful, as they are throughout the work. His timing, slightly behind the beat, swings effortlessly, propelling everything forward.
The sound gets funky and Fields takes over on six-string for “Nothing Left To Lose,” another song about a love affair gone sour. In this one, the woman’s run off with everything but the singer’s heart. Keyes gives the band and his voice a break on “Shadow Boogie,” a five-minute, double-fisted romp on the ivories certain to appeal to anyone with a love for traditional piano blues.
“Sit Right Here” offers a tribute to the Mississippi with a zydeco feel. It’s message: “The strongest voice/can be the softest sound/and a walk can get you there/As fast as a run.“ It’s a song of positive affirmations with the river washing away sins of the past. The band offers up a little New Orleans soul for “Who Stole The Baby Jesus,” about a theft from a Christmas manger scene. The horns and chorus shine in the arrangement, co-written with Cricchio.
The tempo slows for “Never Say Goodbye,” a tender slow blues about a love affair that’s had a lot of ups and downs, with the partners about to go their separate ways without regret. Pevar amplifies the message with tasty work on resonator guitar.
“Now’s My Time” delivers another great message with a Chicago feel — “When love rules the house/Everything’s gonna be just fine” – before Keyes travels back South for “Delta Queen” and finishes the set with “Wronged Man Blues,” another song of lost love.
The themes are familiar, but Keyes’ spin puts a new shine on all of them. A well-conceived, fun listen from beginning to end.