Randy Morrison Band – Hard Place
10 songs – 49 minutes
Based out of the Portland, Ore., one of the deepest pools for music in the U.S., the Randy Morrison Band is a veteran ensemble who make their recording debut on this CD as they combine West Coast blues, soul and R&B into a tight, dance-able package.
The band formed almost by accident about three years ago. Led by Morrison, a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter who’s a veteran road dog, having fronted groups across the nation for years, they got together after meeting at camp-outs that included weekend jams and realizing the chemistry they produced.
A 2017 finalist in the Cascade Music Association’s Journey To Memphis competition, the unit includes Stephen “Midnight” Anderson, who shares vocal and lead guitar duties, and a rhythm section of bassist/vocalist Laura Pesch, a founding member of Northwest Women In Blues, and percussionist Dusty Hill, who’s toured with The Coasters and The Drifters and was timekeeper for Rose City favorites The Sleazy Pieces. They’re aided here by Shawn Lyday and Dan Pettis on organ, Joe McCarthy on trumpet, Scott Franklin and Allyn Jackson on saxes and Steve Shroy on drums.
The disc contains eight well-paced originals, two penned by Morrison and six by Anderson, and a pair of covers. A brief guitar hook kicks off Randy’s pleasing “You Deserve Better,” a swinging stop-time blues that cautions a lady that the singer isn’t all that special while insisting he wants to stay at her side. It features a rock-solid mid-tune single-note guitar solo. Morrison delivers the vocals in a light, pleasant tenor that stays within a tight range.
The horns join the action for “Our Ship.” Written and delivered by Anderson, it’s a medium-paced shuffle set in a pawn shop with the singer dreaming of better days. The guitar solo on this one is beefy and greasy. The tempo slows somewhat but the message continues for “You’ll Get Tired Of Winning,” which percolates with jazzy overtones and Pesch at the mike. The victories will begin when lovers reunite after a separation.
Morrison’s back in charge for the propulsive “Trouble,” a full-band West Coast blues pleaser in which the saxes and guitars shine, before Anderson delivers an unhurried cover of David Lee Roth’s familiar rocker, “Sensible Shoes,” with Laura doubling the chorus.
The funky “Hard Place And The Rock” finds Randy singing about crazy women and crazy times with plenty of wah-wah pedal fretwork before Steve delivers the breezy “Brand New Cadillac,” which sings praise of his lady’s new wheels. A cover of The Cate Brothers’ “There Goes The Neighborhood” follows before two more originals — “Right Place, Wrong Time,” which only mirrors the Dr. John song, and “Into The Midnight Sun” – bring the set to a close.
The deeper you get into Hard Place, the more you appreciate the Randy Morrison Band. This one simmers, then smokes. The instrumentation is spectacular, but well-controlled throughout, and the original tunes shine. Available from CDBaby or as a download from multiple vendors, it’s a pleaser from a group that definitely deserves your attention.