Paul Gabriel – Man Of Many Blues
Smoke Ring Records
13 tracks; 66 minutes
Paul Gabriel was on three albums with the late Harry Chapin and played slide on Rory Block’s Grammy-nominated Mama’s Blues. This solid disc is his second collaboration with Duke Robillard following 2013’s What’s The Chance. Paul wrote all the material, collaborating on two songs, and handles vocals and guitar with a core band of Robillard regulars, Mark Teixeira on drums and Bruce Bears on keys with bass duties divided between three players: Scott Spray, Frank Davis and Paul Opalach. Duke plays second guitar on six cuts and Christine Ohlman of Saturday Night Live fame adds B/Vs to four. Tenor and baritone saxes are added to five tracks by Roomful Of Blues horn man Mark Earley, three of which also feature another Roomful alumnus, Doug James, on baritone. Duke produced the album, recorded at Lakewest studio in West Greenwich, Rhode Island, with Jack Gauthier behind the desk.
Opener “I Feel Good” is a mid-tempo blues groove driven by the twin horns while Paul delves into soul-blues on the outstanding cut “Cold, Cold, Cold”, a lovely tune with fine horns by Mark. Paul’s voice works particularly well on this one, adding a touch of vulnerability on a song with bittersweet lyrics and aided by Christine’s backing vocal support on the chorus. The horns also work well on “No Finance, No Romance” which has a Little Feat feel (who also did a song with a similar title – “Romance Without Finance” on their 1995 album Ain’t Had Enough Fun).
Paul gives us a fine, relaxed instrumental mid-album with “Blues For Georgia”, dedicated to Georgia Lewis, a gospel vocalist with whom Paul worked for many years. Paul’s sense of humor shines through on “Second Story Man” as a femme fatale attempts to lure him up to her apartment, played to a T-Bone Walker stroll, and on the oddly titled “Face Full Of Frown”, in which Paul is clearly finding the relationship heavy going, a jump blues with the horns back on board as Paul and Duke exchange strong solos.
Two songs towards the end of the album are particularly noteworthy: the positively charged “On That Train” again benefits from Christine’s B/Vs and has a hint of gospel in the chorus whilst “Dear John Letter” makes a rousing finale to the album with a memorable chorus and Paul rocking out on guitar. Where Duke joins Paul the music has hints of jazz, as on “Maybe We Can Talk Awhile” and on the relaxed title track “Man Of Many Blues”.
A varied and interesting album, well worth seeking out.