CD: 11 Songs, 41:31 Minutes
Styles: Blues Covers, Ensemble Blues, 1950’s-Style Blues
Forget H.G. Wells’ imaginary invention: music is a real time machine. In a single note, a guitar riff, a poetic piano phrase, it hurtles you back to the era of your choice. In the case of the third album from California’s Jimmy Smith Band, T’Bird and a Redhead, the 1950’s are what listeners will (re)experience. It’s an ensemble blues collection, pure and simple, featuring ten covers and the original title track. On the back of the CD cover, a note reads, “All songs arranged by Jimmy Smith, Tim Cuny, Pierre Le Corre, Catlin Small, Skip Engle, [and] Julien Astruck.” Unfortunately for this reviewer, she can’t tell who plays what, as instrumentation credits are not precisely listed (not even on the band’s Facebook page). Vocally, Jimmy Smith is a craftsman, not an artiste. With a conversational tone and laid-back style, he gets the job done. As for the other musicians, they do a commendable job of combining 1950’s pep with 2000-teens’ edge. Key highlights are harmonica on several tracks, horns, and drums on the va-va-voom opener. Their fans will surely love it, and for those who’ve never heard them, it’s a fine introduction.
When building a resume, artists of all stripes like to point out the stars with whom they’ve collaborated. As for the Jimmy Smith Band, according to their webpage, Jimmy’s keyboards have partnered with a diverse group of musicians and bands, including Doyle Bramhall III, Steve Kimock, Luther Tucker, Charlie Musselwhite, Nick Gravenites, Norton Buffalo, Larry Graham, Robert Palmer, Guitar Shorty, Little Jimmy Reed, Kenny Neal, Freddie Roulette, Sonny Rhodes, and Tia Carroll. Jimmy’s bands have opened for such greats as Bonnie Raitt, Tower of Power, Little Feat, and the Average White Band. With a CV like this, it’s a wonder they’re not more well-known in the blues and blues-rock world, but that will change with time and effort.
The title track of this album lets the band’s songwriting skills jump to the musical forefront.
Track 06: “T’Bird and a Redhead” – “It’s how I like to roll,” sings Jimmy about two of his most favorite things. “One spends my money; the other one fills my soul!” One wonders which is which. This song’s as carefree and sassy as the ‘50’s is portrayed in nine out of ten movies. Every instrument featured on this song goes all out, and the result is beautifully balanced.
For those aficionados who only collect the purest of pure specimens, the rarest of blues-rock rarities, and the keenest of compact discs, the latest from the Jimmy Smith Band may or may not fit the bill. However, for those who just want to have fun and go back to the days of muscle cars and gorgeous ginger girls in polka-dotted tops, T’Bird and a Redhead will suit them to a T!