12 tracks / 42:19
Michele D’Amour and the Love Dealers is not one of the ordinary blues bands that is content with playing cover tunes at local clubs. In fact, after only a few years together they have played at many festivals, and they have already produced three albums. With each release they have included more of their own tunes, and this time all twelve tracks are originals. This year’s catalog addition, Lost Nights at the Leopard Lounge, is their best work so far.
Ms. D’Amour, has been working towards this career for her entire life in her hometown of Seattle: she got a head start as a 6 year old piano prodigy, and Michele started singing at church and writing early too. This led to her fronting several local bands with plenty of opportunities to write and perform her own material. Five years ago she started the Love Dealers with bassist Patrick McDanel, and this was a fine start to building a solid team.
For Lost Nights at the Leopard Lounge, Michele wrote all of these songs, with collaborative credit going to Cory Wilds for two of the tracks. She also handled the lead vocals, and joining her in the studio were McDanel on bass and newcomer Ryan Higgins on guitar; drumming duties were split between Ronnie Bishop and Rick Bowen. Grammy-winner Steve Feasley of Love Studios engineered the studio sessions, which took place in Seattle and Snohomish, Washington.
There are a few Leopard Lounges around the country, but this album is not really referring to any of them. Rather, it is an imaginary amalgam of the cool clubs that the band has played in over the years. This makes an appropriate setting for the stories that are told through the songs, as many of them are based on experiences that the band has lived through. This is heard right from the start of the set, as the uptempo shuffle, “No Good,” lays down the details of a man who should have been born with “a pair of horns.” On this track Michele’s hearty alto voice is well suited to this guitar-fueled romp that features the tight backline of McDanel and Bishop.
After the opener, the band switches things up for each subsequent track. “Trouble” is a slow blues tune with a personal feel that describes the effects of family-wrecking character, and Higgins delivers great lead guitar work that is almost jazz-like, accompanied by unique backing vocals that help make the mood. You will also find terrific imagery in the title track, as there are aspects of many bars in the “Leopard Lounge.” As you hear the band rock out and Michele sing about having to pay cash at the bar for your beer, you can also smell the bleach and sawdust!
The Love Dealers also do a respectable job with funk, as McDanel lays down a raunchy and distorted bass line for “Lost My Mojo.” He also picks up his trombone as Higgins brings his trumpet to this song, which is an unexpected bit of texture that really makes this track shine. The band also combines funk with rock for “What the Cat Dragged In,” an ode to a man whose life is a complete mess. This tune changes tempo and feel a few times, and these breaks set the stage for some decidedly tasty guitar solo work from Bishop; this ends up being one of the more memorable tracks on the album. Then, before you know it, the set finishes up with one last shuffle, Black Cat Boogie,” and it is hard to believe that 43 minutes have gone by!
Lost Nights at the Leopard Lounge is a strong album with good songs, talented musicians, and fabulous production from Steve Feasley. The songs have a clear and well-balanced sound, and though they cross many blues genres they work very well together. This material will transfer well to their live show, so be sure to head over to their website to see where Michele D’Amour and the Love Dealers are playing next. If you are located anywhere from the Pacific Northwest to Central California you are in luck, as they have plenty of shows scheduled, so check them out if you get the chance!