10 tracks / 47:01
Travis Haddix has been rocking the blues since before many of us were born, but he is still a stone cold bluesman of the highest order. This Mississippi native transplanted to Cleveland (the Cancun of lake Erie!) in 1959, and is still doggedly touring the United States and Europe at an age where most folks would be sitting at home on the sofa and napping though retirement.
Love Coupons is Travis “Moonchild” Haddix’s most recent album, and it is a sweet blend of Midwestern blues and soul with plenty of horns, organ, and ripping electric guitars. Travis takes care of the vocals and the lead guitar parts, and the rest of his main crew is Gilbert Zachary on keys, Robert “Red Top” Young on the Hammond, Edward Lemmers on bass, and Jeremy Sullivan behind the drum kit. There is also the righteous horn section of Tony “T.J.” Fortunato, David Ruffin and Norman Tischler to contend with.
Haddix wrote all of the songs on this disc (his 20th, if I counted right), and it was recorded in just a month in a Beachwood, Ohio studio. The set kicks off with the title track, and everything is right in the world as the band delivers heavy and soulful blues. Guest artist Mike Calhoun plays a steady rhythm guitar part throughout, helping set the tone over Young’s spooky B-3 and the super-tight horn section. Moonchild’s voice has held up well, and he delivers the humorous vocals with a pleasant growl.
Though Love Coupons is a studio album, the recordings have a live feel and avoid the overproduction that is so tempting with all of the wonderful digital technology that is so readily available today. A good example of this is “Art to Gettin’ Even,” which is a gloriously funky track. This song has a lot going on, but the horns are well arranged over the gnarly rhythm section of Lemmers and guest bassist Ray Deforest. Haddix puts out even more tasty guitar leads and solos throughout, again with Calhoun on rhythm guitar.
The band can slow things down too, and “Dinner with the Devil” is a guitar-heavy ballad with a cool horn ostinato. The lyrics make clever parallels between the culinary world and a frustrated man’s love life. One cannot go wrong with lyrics like, “They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and I know you disagree / Lean Cuisine is not part of your scene, that’s why you never cook for me / I never say that I’m hungry when we’re out in the street / Because it’s like having dinner with the devil every time we sit down to eat.” Note that there is also some great harp work on this track courtesy of Bob Frank.
Travis saved a dramatic mid-tempo show-ender to close out the set: “Sweet and Sour Loving.” Again, the lyrics lament a miserable love life, which appears to be mostly caused by not being picky enough in the dating process! Haddix has a good formula down for his songwriting, as the lyrics are self-deprecating and humorous, and the music fits in perfectly with the message. Of course, it helps to have the musical skills to back it up.
Love Coupons delivers over 45 minutes of very good contemporary blues and soul, and Travis Haddix and his band once again put a solid performance on wax. But he is not just a studio hero — he gives his all in his live performances too, and he will be touring Europe and the United States for the rest of the year. So, head over to his website to check out his schedule and make the time to go see him up close and personal!