The Good, the Bad, and the Blues: The Good, the Bad, and the Blues
13 songs, 57 minutes
Based in Toledo, Ohio, The Good, the Bad and the Blues is a quartet of seasoned musicians who play their own blend of soul-inflected blues, spiced-up some gospel, and with more than a little funk for good measure… and always with a solid groove!
Featuring Aayan Naim on guitar and vocals, Gordon Henry on bass, BJ Love on Hammond B3 and piano, and “Hollywood” Mike Darby on drums, the band’s solid, accomplished performers make it all look easy… and fun! Aayan Naim grew up in Chicago, and began performing in the 7th grade. He turned pro just a couple years later playing in a variety of bands, and never looked back. Of note, his childhood home was directly across the street from Howlin’ Wolf, while his brother-in- law was a member of the Temptations… all in all, a not-too-shabby backdrop for an aspiring musician. Those early experiences definitely had an influence on his musical evolution, and it shows in his songwriting, song choices, and performance. Other musicians contributing to this album include Ric Wolkins and Mark Lemle of the Toledo Horns on trumpet and saxophone, respectively; Travis Geiman on trombone, and Ray Benson on congas. Internationally recognized soul blues powerhouse Johnny Rawls handles guitar duties and vocals for the album’s final song, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Blues.”
This self-titled album – their first – was recorded at the studios of the Toledo School for the Arts, and the label, Third Street Cigar, is based in Waterville, OH. The album was co-produced by Naim and Third Street’s co-owner, John Henry, a co-founder of the Black Swamp Blues Society. For this debut album, the band decided on a mix of original material and covers, including some written by – or co-written with Rawls.
The opener, “Kind of Girl,” written by Naim and drummer Darby, has a relaxed, Memphis-flavored soul groove accompanied by some tasty horns. “Searchin’” is mid-tempo minor soul blues penned by Rawls, and features Naim’s emotional vocals front and center. Next up is the Naim-penned I’ve Been Down, a funky, up-tempo ode to perseverance, with some great horn charts, that Naim drives home with his powerful vocal.
“‘Til You Come Home” is a soulful, organ-soaked ballad that is somewhat overpowered by Mike Darby’s muscular approach to the drum track.
“Blindog” is a tune by Anthony Gomes, the Canadian guitarist currently based in St. Louis, MO. This version hews fairly close to Gomes’ own version, and has a funk-rock feel to it, accentuated by Naim’s stinging guitar fills.
Two of the real standout tracks on the album had been originally recorded in the late 60s by Tyrone Davis: “Can I Change My Mind? (written by Barry Despenza and Carl Wolfolk) and “Turn Back the Hands of Time” (written by Jack Daniels and Bonnie Thompson). Both songs are eloquent in their expression of regret, and the band’s performances do real justice to both.
“It’s Raining,” another Naim composition, is a slow, minor-key ballad that relies heavily on some ethereal reverb and tremolo for the underpinning provided by Naim’s rhythm guitar. Here again, Naim’s soulful voice carries the song, and he’s assisted by an occasional chorus of the chorus’ refrain. His tasteful, understated solo brings it all together.
The final track, the acoustic “Ain’t Nothing Like the Blues” has a down-home front porch feel to it, was written by and features Johnny Rawls, trading vocals with Naim.
All in all, this is a solid album of what I might classify as Memphis-influenced soul blues. The original tunes are solid, but the band really shines on the two Tyrone Davis reinterpretations.
As I do with every album I review, I headed on over to YouTube to check-out their live performances, and found them to be quite impressive! If you’re a fan of soul blues with a pinch of funk thrown in for seasoning, I think you’ll enjoy this album… I know I did! Hope to be able to see them in person some day so I can experience that solid groove, “live and in person!”