World Talent Records
CD: 14 songs; 60:42 Minutes
Styles: Traditional Electric and Harmonica Blues
Too rarely, blues artists truly excel beyond “good” in regards to their crafts of performing live and producing studio albums. The musicians’ efforts are so remarkable that although they might have been on the scene for half a century, as is prime guitarist Forrest McDonald from Austin, TX, their sound is so fresh that each new release sounds like a debut.
Forrest’s career began fifty years ago and has spawned dozens of recordings and international acclaim. He was a former Muscle Shoals Rhythm section member and the former guitarist for Kathi McDonald and Bonnie Bramlett, Bobby Womack, Jimmy Reed, Jr., Marie Franklin, Silver, Platinum and Gold, and Doris Troy. Alongside him on this twelfth release for World Talent Records are lead vocalist Andrew Black, drummer John McKnight, bassist Lee Gammon, keyboardist Tony Carey, and Jon Liebman on harmonica and vocals. They present nine original songs and five covers, along with three bonus tracks. Included with this CD is a handy booklet revealing the background stories behind each tune, three of which are mentioned below:
Track 01: “Turnaround Blues” – Originally recorded in 1972, according to the liner booklet, the up-tempo title track is an absolute killer. Fans of Stevie Ray Vaughan will beam in fond remembrance, as will devotees of Chicago blues stomps. Our narrator’s former lover has reversed his romantic fortune: “I gave you money, my milk and honey, everything a man could do. Well, you played me; you betrayed me. You said that we were through. You know, it hurts so bad to get the Turnaround Blues.” Guest star Darell Cobb’s electric shredder is stellar, as are Becky Wright and Kaylon McDonald on background vocals.
Track 03: “River of Tears” – Is this slow burner romantic or not? Even though it’s about the emptiness that comes with love’s loss, one might be inspired to hold a partner close on the dance floor anyway. Tony Carey shows the versatility of his keyboards here: mournful organ, tinkling piano, and melancholy funk. “The ground was dusty, parched and bare. First came a stream; now there’s a river there. After all these years, all I’ve got to show is a river, a river of tears.” John Schwenke guest stars on bass.
Track 09: “Woman Across the Ocean” – According to the liner booklet, “This is a moderately-paced blues initially inspired by Freddy King’s ‘Woman Across the Water’. I decided it didn’t have to have a sad ending, and after 40 years finally completed it.” What took so long? This is a fantastic homage to one of the late, great blues masters, especially Forrest’s awesome guitar and Andrew Black on lead vocals, which are slightly reminiscent of soul singer Aaron Neville.
This posse is so skilled that even their covers sound new. The Forrest McDonald Band will turn one’s blues around with “Turnaround Blues”!