Dixie Peach – Blues with Friends | Album Review

dixiepeachcdDixie Peach – Blues with Friends

Big Shew Records

www.dixiepeach.com

 10 tracks; 43:46 minutes; Library Quality

 Styles: Southern Blues-Rock; American Roots Music

“You shall be known by the company you keep.” I did not know Ira Stanley, leader of re-united Dayton, Ohio band Dixie Peach, but I know some of the company he is keeping. Listed as guesting “Friends” are accomplished vocalist and harmonizer Etta Britt and soulful Southern Rockers Grammy nominated Lee Roy Parnell and ex-Allman Brothers Band member Jack Pearson, both guitar monsters influenced by works of Duane Allman. Now, that is good company, indeed.

Originally formed in 1972, Dixie Peach featured Ira Stanley (guitars), Mike Rousculp (bass), and Steve Williams (keyboards). The band included Tony Paulus (keyboards & guitar), and Jerry Barnhart (drums). Beginning in 1973, Dixie Peach started touring full time, playing gigs from Buffalo, New York to Tampa, Florida. Finding success, the band released its first album in 1974. Eventually, the stress of constant travelling led to the band discontinuing. Members scattered; some went to college, and others began careers in business or education. However, each member continued to play and perform part time for many years. 

By popular demand, in 1998 the band reformed with all the original members (except Steve Benson had replaced Jerry on drums) to play one last final appearance. Experiencing a sellout crowd, the band began playing one annual gig called the “annual final appearance.” In 2002, Ira won “best guitarist” at the “Fortune” battle of the corporate bands held at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Gibson (guitars) was a sponsor of the event and began to use Dixie Peach as a house band for many of its musical functions. At these functions, the band backed up national performers like Dickey Betts, Lee Roy Parnell, Jeff Carlisi (.38 Special), Kenny Olson (Kid Rock), and Carl Weathersby. In 2002, the band released a second album titled “Butta” which included some original material and Blues covers. And, in 2013, Dixie Peach released this newest CD with ten, all original songs. Titled “Blues with Friends,” it includes the 1998 lineup and guest appearances by 15 deft friends. Prominently featuring electric Blues guitar, it was a finalist in the International Blues Challenge for Best Self-Produced CD.

Kicking off our Saturday night radio show with an instrumental found last on the CD, “Rick’s Shuffle,” my radio partner Shuffle Shoes and I looked at each other with an Oh-my-God moment; how were we going to top that in the next four hours of programming! As the engine room pumps out a shuffling groove, Ira and guitar guest Lee Swisher trade tasty licks and channel some incredible Duane Allman slide work that broke smiles across our faces. Another killer instrumental is “Bottle [sic] Hymn of the Republic” featuring a slide-fest ala Ira, Lee Roy, and Jack.

Slated for future play is the set opener, “Too Much Trouble,” which kicks off with ear-grabbing guitar lines that set up Stanley’s gruff and studied vocals lamenting injustices. Punctuating those thoughts are Ira’s slide and Swisher’s guitar plus Tony Paulus on keys.

“Pork Chop Blues” is a killer track with full band treatment. Featuring a Latin rhythm, it especially showcases Stanley’s picking followed by Jack Pearson who takes a hot second solo before yielding to Lee Roy Parnell who singes the strings. Gary King (Trombone), Michael Greene ( Baritone Sax), Matt Quinn (Sax) and Brady Hagen (Trumpet) add the horns to this standout track. 

“Trouble with Love” is radio-ready and features Stanley and Scotty Bratcher on single note guitar runs and a sweet tandem passage. Ira and Etta Britt trade poignant vocal leads explaining that “the trouble with love is – it ain’t nothing but trouble.”

The album is mixed by Grammy nominee Bud Snyder, who spent years with the Allman Brothers Band and Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts individually. The album was mastered by Rodney Mills who previously worked with .38 Special and the Atlanta Rhythm Section. The combination of musicianship and recording expertise have produced an album that is noteworthy for being both familiar to Southern Blues-Rock and Roots fans, yet fresh. The band’s influences are obvious, but this album shows their own originality.

Dixie Peach is a group of accomplished musicians doing what they like best: playing American Blues. They can keep company with me anytime!

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