13 songs – 58 minutes
Gabriel Cox is a gifted singer, songwriter and guitarist who delivers a dose of blues-based rock that touches on soul, funk and pop, too, as this CD clearly demonstrates.
Based out of Portland, Ore., and a two-time nominee for the Cascade Music Association’s Muddy Award, Cox has his sights on a bigger target this time. <i>I Surrender</i> was selected to represent the Cascade Blues Association of Portland as part of the Blues Foundation’s “Best Self-Produced CD of 2016 competition” at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN.
A collection of 12 originals and one cover, the CD was two years in the making and a follow-up to his 2014 eponymous debut release. It includes contributions from several prominent musicians from the Pacific Northwest, where Cox tours and often headlines at festivals.
Holding down the rhythm section are Jarred Venti on bass and Derek Jones on drums. They’re joined by Nathan Olsen on keys, Hank Shreve on harmonica and Brandon Logan on guitar with Jason Carter providing additional percussion. Rounding out the sound are vocalists Miranda Vettrus, who doubles on lead for one cut, Rae Gordon, John Pulvers and Mark Cox.
A funky handclap and humming chorus introduces the first cut “Willie Brown II,” the video for which has received more than 50,000 views on Cox’s Facebook page. It’s a powerful, but simple modern field holler with strong gospel overtones about “seeing angels without their Heaven and hearing music without a sound.” It picks up intensity as it progresses. Gabriel’s voice is clear and strong.
Cox puts his guitar talents on display for the intro to “Best That I Can,” a syncopated request for a lover to be a friend and fan as he promises to do whatever it takes to succeed while always watching her back. “Fever” is a balls-to-the-wall rocker about giving a lusty lass the cure she desires. “Pretty Little Lady” follows atop a medium-fast shuffle with Shreve featured on harp. She’s a devil and an angel who cries to get her own way.
The pace changes dramatically for “The Railman,” which lasts only 47-seconds, but flows effortlessly into “Still The Man,” a boast about being a good lover that’s laid atop a simple, strong and steady guitar hook. The bluesy rockers “I Can’t Take This” and “I’m Gone” precede “Your Touch,” a love song with an interesting guitar hook that starts subdued but picks up steam as it progresses.
An updated cover of Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” follows before Vettrus shares the mike for the duet “This Love.” It’s a sultry, slow blues that’s introduced with a tension-building, unhurried guitar solo and speaks about overcoming difficulties that relationships endure. Olsen’s sweet solo on the 88s provides a nice mid-tune break. “Boy In Blue” follows before the seven-plus-minute title tune, “I Surrender,” a bittersweet ballad that deals with regret about past mistakes in a relationship, brings the disc to a close.
Available through Amazon or direct from the artist’s website (address above), I Surrender is definitely worth a listen. The production is first-rate, and Cox’s material remains fresh and original throughout.