Jaxon Records – 2014
11 tracks; 48 minutes
Little Boys Blue was founded over 20 years ago by Tennessee natives JD Taylor (lead vocals and harp) and Steve Patterson (slide guitar). They have released two previous albums and competed in the IBC’s, placing third in the solo/duo category in 1997. This new release is a full band effort with JD and Steve joined by JD’s son Alex on guitar, Dave Thomas on keys, Dave Mallard on bass and Mark Brooks on drums. Justin Dudley adds some extra keyboards and a horn section of Ralph Thomas and Chuck McGill (sax) and David Kyles (trumpet) appears on three tracks. Backing vocals on one cut come from Dave Mallard, Lindsay Patterson, Kimberlie Helton and Josh Smith. There are nine originals across a range of styles written by JD and Alex plus two covers.
The album opens with the title track, a mid-paced rolling blues with everyone getting a chance to shine: JD’s gravelly vocal and harp are excellent, Alex plays a sinuous solo and Dave’s organ provides a lovely warm blanket throughout. JD is ‘under the influence’ of a woman who has “powerful stuff – but we got some bad love”, so all is not well. “She Put Me Down” might be a lyrical follow-up but stylistically is a fast shuffle with more good harp work from JD and a solo feature for Dave’s Hammond.
The style shifts again as the horns feature on the soulful “Treat Me Like You Used To Do” which transports us straight to Memphis, the rhythm section demonstrating a real feel for this type of soul music. JD’s voice adapts very well to the demands of this type of music and his harp is the featured solo instrument (unusual for a soul tune); the backing vocalists also provide added depth to this outstanding track. In a slinky arrangement, the cover of Son House’s “Death Letter Blues” is also superb with Steve’s expressive slide making this sound like a long-lost Allmans tune. Another change of pace and style finds Steve again playing some lovely slide on the gentle, country-tinged “Forget These Blues”. The slide work again recalls the Allmans (think “Blue Sky”) and the harp interludes work really well as the band plays over an acoustic rhythm guitar part – another excellent track. JD’s throaty vocal equally suits “Howling At Your Door” which has some tough slide and harp work.
Another shift in style finds the band hitting a Louisiana groove on the appropriately titled “Cajun Girl”, a really catchy piece with Dave T on piano. The shortest tune here is “You And I”, a shame as the horns are back on another lovely soul tune! JD sings it well and the blend of insistent, ringing rhythm guitar and slide embellishments works excellently as a sax takes the solo honors. JD’s harp opens “Go Back Home” before the band joins in on a slow blues on which the horns reinforce the choruses as Steve stretches out in his extended solo before JD adds his solo contribution and the horns return to close out the tune.
“Ain’t No Use In Crying” rolls along well as JD again starts things off well supported by Dave’s organ work. You can tell that JD and Steve have played for many years together throughout this album but probably nowhere better than the closing run-through of Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied” which is a simple arrangement of the classic blues with the rhythm section setting the pace as Steve plays slide and harp and JD provides a very convincing vocal for the song.
Overall this is a very enjoyable album with a wide variety of material ranging from country and urban blues to soul with a taste of Louisiana and classic Allman Brothers thrown in along the way. The two covers sit well among the original material and the band can feel proud of what they have laid down here. The band has recorded a follow-up album which should be released in 2016 but meanwhile this one is recommended listening!