The passing of Mighty Sam McClain last June marked the end of five decades of beautiful vocal work by this blues and soul legend. Blending deep soul and blues, Sam’s last new CD contains 10 originals and one song penned by his longtime friend Melvin Underwood. As the liner notes state, this is not a somber memorial album, it is the final work of a man who wanted us to remember what he and his music were all about. Sam performed in over 60 countries, one of the few to visit Russia. He also toured with Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat for the last 8 years. He was truly a Renaissance man.
The album features Sam on vocals, Pat Herlehy on guitars, bass, alto sax, keys, strings, and more, Michael Rossi on bass, Rick Page on drums, Joe Deleault on keys and B3 organ, Barry Seelen on B3 organ, Scott Shetler on tenor and baritone sax, Russell Jewel on trumpet and trombone and Matt Rivero on trumpet. Recorded at Jama Man Studio in Raymond, NH. It is a work that took 12 years to produce. Sam and Pat Herlehy finally got together and produced it themselves, writing songs, doing arrangements and working together in the studio. The album is dedicated to Sam’s mentor and friend Melvin Underwood (Little Melvin) who passed away in 2014.
“Let’s Talk” kicks off the set. It’s a sweet cut where Sam tells us, “We’ve got to love one another” with a clipped delivery that just funks things up nicely. The horns layer over the sex appeal of McClain’s vocals as the guitar tickles senses. It’s a very cool opening. McClain slows things down with “Sweet Love,” where he soulfully expresses himself about a love that makes you cry, that will make you high and that will never die. There are some stirring emotions expressed here. In “Let’s Do Something” McClain sings about working to find love in a cool cut. The title cut follows where McClain sings about the changes we see over our lives if we live long enough. slow tempo funky groove is laid down for Sam to groove with effectively. The guitar is stinging and very well done here. “Bad Dreams” follows and McClain stays in a melancholy down tempo where he’s having bad dreams about his baby. Things perk up a bit with “Around Every Corner” where Sam sings about learning a lesson around every corner. His love is being tested and his light is growing dim, making it hard to see what’s coming next. Another emotion-filled cut delivered so well.
“You Broke My Heart” is a song of lost love where we get a funky delivery by McClain. The thoughtlessness of the breakup, the heart break from the breakup; all of it was apparently intentionally hurtful. McClain expresses hope despite the breakup: love is gonna come again! In “Touch Somebody” we have McClain wanting to reach out and touch someone to help with their pain and the pain he sees all around him. If we reach out and touch somebody we can all help. It’s got a great groove and message. “Here I Come Again” takes it way down as he laments and tells his baby he needs to see her one more time and come back home to stay, The horns play off the vocal line as the organ provides a base for the lyrics. There is a very well done guitar solo in this one, too. “Praise” follows, picking up the beat as the guitar and organ give us a steady groove to move and dance to. We all need to stand up and praise, according to Sam. He tells us that God gives him and all of us hope, so we need to praise! He closes with some deep soul in “You Worry Me.” His long love for his baby makes losing her worse. He worries he’ll lose his mind if his baby leaves him. The B3 organ solo is silky and luxurious. The vocals are emphatic and convincing. He layers vocal tracks over his own to back himself up and it’s just very cool and well done.
Sam’s wife Sandra indicates there is another album to come in late 2017 of some of McClain’s acoustic work and later a 2013 recording from New Orleans. McClain is a superb soul and blues man who has written and recorded many outstanding songs that I love. I can’t wait to hear these new recordings when they come out. In the meantime, I will savor this and his earlier works. This is just beautifully done. original soul and blues. Most highly recommended!