11 songs – 53 minutes
Veteran bluesman Joey Gilmore pays tribute to some of his favorite singers and songwriters on this new release, which moves from gutbucket traditional blues to deep soul without losing a heartbeat.
Born in Ocala, Fla., in 1944 and a resident of the Miami area since the ‘60s, Gilmore’s a self-taught guitar player who worked with some of the biggest names in the business – including James Brown, Etta James, Little Milton, Little Johnny Taylor and Bobby “Blue” Bland – before stepping into the recording studio on his own in the ‘70s.
Despite his age, however, this is only the eighth release in his catalog. A 2005 winner of the International Blues Challenge, Joey’s a talented songsmith in his own right, as his previous work demonstrates. But this album is a tip-of-the-hat to his predecessors. Despite the fact that all of the songs here are covers, almost all of them are unfamiliar to younger audiences and receive new life through Gilmore’s play and superior production from Marc Loren, who mixed and mastered the CD for Mosher St. Records at his 42nd St. Studios in Fort Lauderdale.
Backing Joey here are Robert “Hi-Hat” Carter on bass, Raul Hernandez and Maurice Dukes on drums, Sonny Boy Williams on keyboards and Ivan Chopik on second guitar. Making guest appearances are harmonica player Rockin’ Jake, a longtime fixture in New Orleans before relocating to South Florida after Hurricane Katrina, and talented string bender Drew Preston. Yoel Hyman adds strings and horns with Arlene Coutee adding backing vocals. Adding strongly to the mix are the contributions of Domino Johnson and Edlene Hart, who are featured as lead vocalists on five of the 11 cuts.
Joey displays some of the fine, unhurried fret work on “Man Of My Word,” a song written by Grammy winner Dennis Walker and a hit for Crescent City legend Johnny Adams, the first of four traditional blues numbers to kick off the set. His vocals are stong, tempered by five decades of touring the world.
A version of William Bell’s “Can’t Kill Nothin’,” delivered with a Chicago feel and more stylish guitar work, precedes Windy City piano legend Sunnyland Slim’s “Brownskin Woman,” aided by Rockin’ Jake. Next up, Lou Pride’s “Livin’ A Lie,” features Johnson at the mike. Not to be confused with another artist with the same name who recorded for the Duke label in the ‘70s, he’s a young tenor with a crisp, powerful voice who’ll remind some listeners of a young Sam Cooke. The song serves as a rock-solid bridge to the soulful, modern blues that follows.
Beau Jocque’s “A Little Love (Always Makes It Bettah)” starts slowly but picks up steam quickly. It’s delivered as a syncopated shuffle with Joey on vocals, a reggae/swamp feel and interplay between guitar and keys. The pace slows for a traditional take on Al Jackson’s Memphis standard “Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home,” a hit for Albert King, Etta and Ann Peebles, before Domino’s back to deliver Don Robey’s “This Time I’m Gone For Good.” It’s a slow-blues burner that features Gilmore’s stinging single-note mid-tune.
The most familiar song of the set — Don Covay’s “Chain Of Fools” – follows with Hart holding her own vocally in an arrangement that mirrors Aretha Franklin’s hit before Joey’s smoky intonations bring new life to Milton’s “Room 244,” a minor song in his catalog, but powerful nonetheless. Reworkings of Johnny Rawls’ recent hit, “Soul Survivor,” with Domino handling lead, and the Roosevelt Sykes/St. Louis Jimmy Oden classic “Night Time Is The Right Time,” chart-toppers for both James and Nappy Brown and which features a rousing duet from Edlene and Joey, bring the set to a close.
Available through CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon or directly through the Mosher St. website (address above), Respect The Blues does just that. Gilmore doesn’t cut any new ground here, but he treads reverently on the past and delivers a solid album from beginning to end.