15 songs – 1 hour 12 minutes
Veteran Ken DeRouchie gathered together several all-star musicians from the Pacific Northwest to produce this interesting, multi-layered collection of 14 originals and one cover that run the gamut from soul to blues and funk.
A native of Dearborn, Mich., who received most of his early musical training from brother Doug, 16 years his senior, and now based in Portland, Ore., DeRouchie is a soulful singer and multi-instrumentalist on guitar, drums and keyboards who’s received international airplay with three previous, successful releases. Recognized as one of the best bands in the Upper West Coast, his regular unit is a nine-piece ensemble with full horn section that’s guaranteed to keep folks on the dance floor.
Joining him on Muse are three Cascade Blues Association Muddy Award winners – guitarist Jeff Knudsen of Lisa Mann’s Really Good Band, keyboardist Alex Shakeri of the Insomnics and vocalist Rae Gordon – as well as three-time Grammy nominee Steve Moretti on drums. Rounding out the sound are Gavin Bondy and Caleb Denison (trumpet), Clayton Daffron and Marc Hutchinson (saxophone), Mark Steele (keyboards), Rob Busey (bass) and Tracy Klas and LaRhonda Steele (backing vocals). A regional soul legend, Steele relieves DeRouchie for lead vocals on two numbers.
Dedicated to his brother Doug, who died after engineering eight of the tunes that follow in his studio, the album was created during two distinct periods in DeRouchie’s life: the first during the final years of a failed marriage, the second during the first years of a new romance. Ken kicks off the CD playing everything but horns with the tender and soulful “Guide You Home,” in which the woman has a troubled heart over a long-lost love while her current man pleads to “be your safe place…your light in a storm.” The full band kicks in for the funky “Unglued,” a horn-fueled complaint about losing one’s balance in life: “My inner radar tells me/There’s trouble up ahead/But there’s no one to catch me as I fall.”
Hutchinson contributes a solid sax line and LaRhonda’s featured on mic for the jazzy “Trying To Tell,” a love song from the woman’s point of view in which, not unlike “Guide You Home,” she promises always to be there. Next, DeRouchie assumes all instrumental duties as well as vocal chorus for “All Of You,” a slow-paced, simply charted burner about a man longing to have a woman all to himself. The mood changes dramatically for the outstanding “No Do-Overs,” a funky regret for mistakes made during a bad romance, while “This Too Shall Pass,” looks at relationships in a more positive light as it promises a shoulder to cry on and support no matter come what may.
The only cover in the set, a stripped down, slowed down version of Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone To Love,” precedes the title tune, “Muse.” A solitary guitar riff quickly yields to a hard-hitting horn chart as DeRouchie wonders why he’s been rejected. LaRhonda takes the lead again for “Sexual Chocolate,” a soulful number that clearly demonstrates the band leader’s Motown roots, delivering the tune complete with the full range of romantic innuendo. The mood cools once more for “True To You,” another declaration of love after a fitful night, while the funky “Family Life” sings praises about lessons learned from Mom and Dad and how they relate to DeRouchie’s music and having to end one band before fulfilling his parental destiny with another.
“Where Do We Go Now,” the memory of spending the night trying to drink someone out of his life, leads into “Hey Baby,” sung from the position of a lucky man who wants his gal to come to his side. “Learn To Live” delivers lessons in life before the instrumental “Dark Betty” concludes the action.
Muse is totally soulful from beginning to end. DeRouchie is a masterful songwriter, and the varying musical textures used keep you interested throughout. Available through all of the major websites, this isn’t your granddad’s blues. It’s totally modern in every way and definitely worth a taste.