Funzalo/Woodstock Records – 2017
6 tracks; 24 minutes
Back in 1991 the remaining members of The Band were struggling to convince record labels that they could carry on without recently departed Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel. As when they famously recorded with Dylan, The Band were working in Woodstock, NY, and a local musician and songwriter, Jules Shear, worked with them to produce a set of songs. Aaron ‘Professor Louie’ Hurwitz was also involved at the time and went on to produce three of The Band’s 1990’s albums but, with one exception, the songs from the Band/Shear sessions were never released. Louie has now re-recorded six songs from those ‘lost’ 1991 sessions with his band The Crowmatix who number several players who have been in and around The Band’s music for years: Frank Campbell (Levon Helm) is on bass, Gary Burke (Dylan, The Band) is on drums, John Platania (Van Morrison) is on guitar and Miss Marie (Rick Danko, The Band) is on backing vocals and percussion. Professor Louie handles lead vocals, keyboards and accordion and Jules Shear shares vocals with him on one track while Larry Packer adds mandolin to one cut. Jules wrote three of the songs and collaborated on the other three with Jim Weider and the late Stan Szelest, both members of The Band at the time.
Blues fans should be aware that this is not a blues album but more accurately classed as Americana. Pick of the songs is opener “Tombstone Tombstone” which has an attractive melody and definitely sounds like The Band. The Crowmatix play some nice stuff here with John’s effective guitar solo standing out. “River Of Honey” rolls along on Louie’s organ work as he shares vocals with Jules. Mandolin and accordion bring a folk/country feel to “Long Ways Across Tennessee” before “Baby Don’t You Cry No More” which does have some blues at its core, notably in the core riff and piano playing. We return to the country with what sounds like pedal steel but is probably a synthesiser, Louie adding accordion to accentuate the country feel of “Too Soon Gone”, a song that appeared on The Band’s Jericho album and apparently the only one of these songs to see the light of day until now. Uptempo rocker “Let’s Take This Planet For A Ride” closes this very short album with some keening slide and the biggest production number here.
An interesting back story here but little blues to hear so this one will probably not be of great interest to Blues Blast readers.