Self-Release – 2017
10 tracks; 45 minutes
Based out of Jacksonville, Arkansas, the band is a four-piece with Billy on lead vocals and guitar, Corey Bray on keys, Rev. ‘Do Dirty’ Kendrick on bass and Mark Flinoil on drums. Billy wrote six of the songs here with covers of two soul tunes, one country piece and a little known jazz tune, of which more anon. The general style here does match the title with blues and soul both present and correct.
Billy has a convincing soul and blues voice and plays some solid guitar though he is prone to ‘over-excitement’, leading to some grungy, discordant guitar on occasion. Two contrasting songs open the album: “My Love Is Real” is a mid-tempo soul tune with synth horns from keyboardist Corey and nice slide from Billy who doubles up on guitar for the solo section; “Someone New” is a classic soul ballad with gentle chords and rippling piano underpinning some aching lead work from Billy before he delivers a set of lyrics about a love that has gone cold – a good song. The first cover comes from an unusual source – Duke Ellington with lyrics by Don George (who more famously wrote “I’m Beginning To See The Light”) – but Billy re-works “Biggest House In Town” into a straight blues tune with some fine piano and organ work from Corey as Billy plays his cleanest guitar on the most conventional blues cut of the album. “Can’t Let You Go” was a 1974 Homer Banks tune written for Stax act The Soul Children; here it gets a deep soul treatment with string effects and some of Billy’s most torrid guitar. Billy doesn’t seem to have a lot of luck in his love life as “Love Nobody Else” follows on a similar theme, Billy’s guitar having some Santana references to these ears.
A second song from an unusual source is “Chiseled In Stone”, originally a 1988 country hit for Vern Gosdin. Billy keeps a country ballad rhythm and adds some pleasant guitar touches over Corey’s piano on a song with strong lyrics that Billy puts across well. “I’m Yo Freak” adds some of the funk mentioned in the title and has the most distorted guitar on the disc, almost painful to listen to. In sharp contrast “Ready For Some Lovin’” rips along with Corey’s rock and roll piano and some lovely rhythm playing by Billy, a real foot-tapper. Billy’s final original “Alligator Farm” is a slow blues with Louisiana-referenced lyrics which recount a torrid sexual encounter with the daughter of the farm, Billy giving us more of his distorted guitar work. The album closes on an upbeat note with a song co-written by one of Southern Soul’s great songwriters, George Jackson, “Man And A Half” which Billy and the band deliver really well.
This disc is a genuine mixed bag. In parts it is superb Southern Soul, in parts great blues but also suffers from some guitar that borders on the unpleasant, at least for this reviewer.