Scotty Dennis – Back to the Blues
Self-Produced/Buddydog Music BMI
CD: 12 Songs, 66 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Guitar Monster Blues
Before I begin this review, dear reader, let me ask you a question. Is it possible to thumb-wrestle an album? And what does it mean when the album wins? Kansas City maverick Scotty Dennis’ Back to the Blues is a complex compilation of thirteen tracks (twelve official and one ghost track called “Intro”) that is sure to make listeners’ thumbs flip up, down, all around and sideways. This CD grabs your attention and doesn’t let go. Not only that, but it makes you think: What is this genre? Do crooning romance songs count, such as “For Her Love” and “You Got to Love Me,” or are those more accurately considered soul? What about blistering Albert King-inspired guitar workouts like “I’m Gone” and “I’ve Got the Blues For You”? Are those blues or rock? Regardless, they constitute good, solid entertainment, taken together or separately.
“Versatility has always been a thing for me,” our main man explains in regards to his music. “People have come up and asked me, ‘How did you know what I was going through?’, and I said, ‘I didn’t know, but I know what I was going through, and I knew that if I was going through it, somebody else would have a similar story.” More on this later, but for now, Scotty’s insights ring true on multiple levels, whether one’s a bluesman or not.
Performing along with lead/backing vocalist Dennis are guitarists Brandon Hudspeth, Jerry Keller, Jacque Garoutte, Steve Keller and Hamilton Loomis. Willie Newell plays organ and piano, Go-Go Ray the drums, Fabian Hernandez the saxophone, and Gharett Schaberg the horns. Background and choir vocals are provided by D’Angelo Talbot, Laresha Dennis, Dorthey Williamson, Mechelle Keller, Steve Keller, Zakk Keller, and Anthony Keller.
Beginning these proceedings is an edgy Allman Brothers-style rock anthem with a title more befitting of a closer than an opener: “I’m Gone.” The background vocals by Dennis and Talbot add even more oomph to an already-powerful chorus. “How Can You Love Someone” adds a dash of funk and a splash of soul, making one’s feet shuffle of their own accord. The title track boasts beautiful harmonic vocals by a Greek chorus of voices, raised to the heavens in entreaty: “Every move I make, every road I take, the love I have for you leads me right back to the blues.” “Feel My Love,” running six minutes and thirty-one seconds, runs a bit too long, but who cares when you’re holding your partner close? Take him or her for another spin on “It Don’t Cost You Nothing,” an upbeat number with a wicked bassline and a cheeky cartoon reference: “Trying to make do, just like the Simpsons.” The lesson? “It don’t cost you nothing to get into the groove.” “Intro,” the album’s secret halfway point, is good for a laugh and some backstage epiphanies.
The second half brings more feeling and more flash, starting with the strobe-bright “For Her Love.” “It’s Crying Time” and Anthony Gomes’ “Darkest before the Dawn” lower the mood lights and the mood. Number ten hits one “right in the feels” as Millennials say. The last two numbers are fresh yet traditional, bringing blues past and present together.
This album and genre are about common experiences, universal sentiments, and circumstances to which we can all relate. Scotty Dennis’ latest isn’t brimming with innovation, but that’s not the point. Back to the Blues is a return to our roots and rudiments, tangled as they are.