CD: 13 songs; 43:28 Minutes
Styles: Modern Electric Blues, Soul Blues, Blues Rock
The Super Bowl is fast upon us, and Columbus, Ohio’s Terry Davidson and the Gears have made some “plays” already! In the “Sonic Soul Sessions,” a powerhouse follow-up to 2009’s “Damnation Blues,” they provide a wide variety of original electric blues and blues rock offerings. Their greatest strength is relentless instrumentation, featuring Davidson on guitars, mandolin and vocals, and the other relentless “Gears”: Bill Geist on bass guitar, backing vocals, and percussion, Bob “The Wrench” Hanners on drums, percussion, and backing vocals, and Mike Gilliland on harmonica, guitar and vocals. Guest stars include keyboardist Todd Brown, horn arranger Fred Gablick on saxophone, and John Bonham on trumpet. There are also several other background singers, namely Angie Davidson, Terry Sheeley, Bobby Betton and Lily D. Last but not least, Lee Ohmart plays the whistle with aplomb. Together, this big posse creates a big-band sound, simultaneously old-fashioned and modern. These three songs will be “on the scoreboard” of critics, DJ’s, and rabid genre fans throughout the country:
Track 03: “Chicagoland” – KICKOFF: This may be the third track instead of the first, but it definitely kicks off the album for devotees of soul-influenced blues. With a swinging horn section and an irresistible hook of “See no evil, speak no evil to me, hear no evil, speak no evil to me,” this Windy City shuffle will have listeners hitting the dance floor in record numbers. Mike Gilliland’s harmonica solo in the middle of the song steals the show, as do the fiery background vocals.
Track 10: “Three Ninety Six” – FIELD GOAL: Other than drinking, trouble with money, and trouble with love, cars and racing are among the most popular blues topics. “Three Ninety Six” is an ode to a hotrod and its notorious driver: “Sixty-eight and the gas is cheap; big black Chevy gonna rule that street. Carburetor and Goodrich tires – light ’em up like the street’s on fire!” This shameless rock-and-roll extravaganza is performed at full throttle, not letting up until the final revving notes.
Track 04: “Too Late to Change” – TOUCHDOWN: Smoldering selection number four is slow blues at its best: lyrically simple but instrumentally layered and complex. “Please write my baby; tell her it’s too late to change my ways,” Davidson pleads. “Tell her tomorrow at this time, I may be six feet in my lonesome grave.” Strands of sizzling shredder, moaning mouth-harp, poignant piano, and healing horns are woven into a tapestry of regret. Despite its rueful theme, it’s the most danceable tune on this CD.
The Gears earn major points with their fiercely honest approach to the blues and perfect balance of musical styles throughout their newest release. Davidson occasionally “punts” on his talk-singing vocals, but that’s only a technicality. Enjoy the Super Bowl, and may the “Sonic Soul Sessions” be in one’s lineup for the rest of the season!