2 CD Set: CD 1: 5 Songs, 40:25 Minutes; CD 2: 5 Songs, 41:12 Minutes
Styles: Soul-Influenced Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues, First Studio Album, WOW!
What better time to listen to the blues than when you’re Drivin’? Guitar maverick SaRon Crenshaw’s first studio album proves this point extremely well. Its ten songs, which come on two CD’s, demonstrate why War and Peace came in three volumes: it’s a saga, not a story. Likewise, Crenshaw’s album is a soul blues saga, and deserves such length. Several of the tracks run over ten minutes, but – holy smokes – once you hear their first notes, you won’t care. This is NOT a pretentious display of what I call “guitar flogging” and other purists call something worse. Most of all, this is NOT an amateur’s work, though it’s self-produced. SaRon knows what Eric Clapton does: guitars speak, and wasting notes means wasting words. With a voice as swoon-inducing as his riffs, Crenshaw will be on top of the scene in no time.
What I wish I could do is go on for pages about how fantastic these CD’s are, but in the interest of giving credit where credit’s due, I have to cut myself short and let our hero’s online bio do the talking. “SaRon Crenshaw learned to play guitar at the age of ten. He is an extremely talented guitarist who travels the country playing Jazz and Rhythm and Blues. In the 70’s and 80’s he made his living playing bass for several bands in New Jersey, New York and South Carolina. He has shared stages with talented recording artists such as Lee Fields, Roy Roberts, Denise Lasalle, Bobby Rush, Jessie James, Tyrone Davis, and Chuck Roberson…SaRon plays a Gibson ‘Lucille’ model guitar signed by B.B. King himself.”
Along with lead vocalist and guitarist Crenshaw are Tom Larsen on rhythm guitar and featured solos; Eric Finland on C3 Hammond organ; Jimmy Odum on bass guitar; Jordan Rose on drums; Wayne Tucker on horns; Thomas Hutchings on saxophone, and Richard Lee on trumpet.
It’s truly impossible to pick the best three selections out of this set, but here comes my best shot.
Track 01: “Drivin’” – The title track begins with a guitar intro that will start any trip with plenty of zip. “Man! I’m spending a fortune on this car,” SaRon exclaims, and who among us drivers can’t relate? “That daggone salesman, I think he done got over on me, man.” Bummer, but this song definitely isn’t. It’s peppy and salacious, a guilty-pleasure number if there ever was one. The instrumentation is perfectly balanced, shredder solos notwithstanding. It’s a “gas” for sure.
Track 02: “World of Misery” – My mother recently said that if you want to know what Jesus and Christianity are all about, read the book of John. If you want to know what the blues are all about, listen to this lovely litany of woe. “My father passed away this morning; oh, my mother’s on her deathbed, and I got no one to care for me. I’m living in this world of misery. Oh, nobody seems to care, baby, living in this world.” The highlight here is Jimmy Odum’s understated-yet-sinister bass guitar.
Track 01 on Disc 2: “Jailer Blues” – No one likes to go to the Gray Bar Hotel, especially not our protagonist. Nevertheless, that’s where he’s ended up on this tongue-in-cheek track. With a laid-back, old-fashioned feel, it’s a warning that “I hate to tell you, fella, but you’ll never, never pay me.” Eric Finland’s tinkling piano, echoing the era of ragtime, is the flash in this musical gem.
SaRon Crenshaw’s Drivin’ is Rainey Wetnight’s indisputable Pick of 2017, and the year’s not even over!