Jeff Dale And The South Woodlawners – Blues Power
Pro Sho Bidness – 2019
11 tracks; 36 minutes
This is Jeff Dale’s sixth release in nine years. Jeff wrote all the songs and plays guitar throughout, supported by a large cast of musicians, including members of James Cotton and Buddy Guy’s bands: guitarists Charlie Love, Jon Siembieda, Hunter Ackerman and Carmelo Bonaventura; keyboard man Derek Phillips; harp players Glen Doll and Aaron Barnes; saxophonist Pat Zicari; horn player and original member of Chicago Lee Loughnane; bassists Orlando Wright, Darryl Lieberstein and André Howard; drummers the late Tim Austin (to whom the album is dedicated), Mark Mack, Clark Pardee and Brian Lara; cellist Dane Little; violinist Nora Germain; backing vocalists Sherry Pruitt and Marvin Etzioni, an original member of Lone Justice, co-producer of the album with Jeff.
The Chicago native has a tough vocal style and pulls no punches about growing up in the Windy City in the opening cut “Toxic Stew”. It’s the longest track here and benefits from a full sound with Pat’s sax and Jeff’s slide work as Jeff reflects on a grim environment in which to grow up: “grey skies, black dust, things you get used to. But I’m alive, I survived the toxic stew.” Sherry shares the vocals on “Good Luck Woman”, a shuffle with Jeff commenting humorously on how his woman actually brings him bad luck before the title track “Blues Power” which extols the healing power of music for whatever ails you. “Middle Class Moan” is a list of complaints over a rather repetitive tune (presumably the ‘moan’ of the old field work-songs) with bubbling keys and Lee Loughnane’s horn accents and the slower “One Step From A Broken Man” is quite a ‘down’ song about a relationship that has foundered, the mournful cello fitting the lyrics well, though the song stretches Jeff’s vocals a bit.
“Best Kind Of Trouble” uses the Bo Diddley beat for another song about Jeff’s development as a musician, his slide sitting on top of the beat and strong backing vocals, making it one of the best tracks here. The pace drops on “Stone Cold” and, again, Jeff’s voice is less suited to the slower songs, the pathos of the lyrics underlined on this one by violin. The next three tracks all feature three guitarists, Jeff, Carmelo and Jon: “Let’s Buzz” is good fun but lasts under two minutes – a pity as the sax, piano and three guitars works pretty well; “Undercover Man” is a grinding blues with lots of guitar; “Black Crow” has Jeff on cigar box guitar and the harp adds a tough note to the music which works well with Jeff’s brooding vocal here. The album closes with another short track, the crowd-pleasing “Can I Boogie” which, one suspects, would be a firm favorite live with rocking piano and sax.
It is always good to hear an all-original album and Jeff’s fans will be sure to enjoy this disc.