Wolf Records International – Oct 2017
14 songs; 50 minutes
Vance “Guitar” Kelly is a veteran guitarist and soul blues singer who performs regularly at various music venues in the Chicago area. After cutting his musical teeth in the late 80s as a member of saxophonist A.C. Reed’s Sparkplugs, and a later association with John Primer – both of which enabled him to refine his performance and songwriting skills, Kelly struck out on his own. His 8th CD release, How Can I Miss You, When You Won’t Leave? is a collection of 14 original tunes, which run the gamut from up-tempo, Chicago-style blues to 70s-era soul and down-home gospel… with just the slightest hint of disco thrown-in for good measure.
This collection was recorded with Kelly’s very capable Backstreet Blues Band, consisting of Kelly on guitar, Ethel Reed on vocals, Stan Mixons on bass, Gary Salomon and Charles Kimble on sax, Johnny Cotton on trombone, John Wells on keys, Johann Ross Jr. on drums, De Shun Burns on drums, and Dayrock on bass. Kelly’s guitar influences would certainly appear to include at least two of the Kings – B.B. and Freddie – but he also brings his own distinctive approach to the instrument. His solos are crisp and his tone clear and bell-like, and his playing covers a wide swath stylistically.
But make no mistake: This is serious foot-tapping music. From the opener, “All About Life,” all the way through to the closing instrumental, “Jamming in the Studio,” the listener is treated to an interesting variety of blues, R&B, and gospel styles, but with a decidedly 70s soul feel to the entire CD. The band is tight, the arrangements crisp, and the grooves are solid, with a slightly bass-heavy production that propels each song forward without becoming too distracting.
“Get Home to My Baby” is a fine traditional mid-tempo Chicago-style blues, and the title track, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Leave,” has a solid groove, punctuated by some great disco-flavored rhythm guitar and some wonderful horn accents.
While the gospel feel of “Count on Me” could be equally at home on a 70s era Temptations or Persuasions album, Kelly’s delicate guitar work weaves in-and-out and brings it right back to his blues roots. The propulsive beat and blistering guitar of “Don’t Give My Love Away” recalls Shelter-era Freddie King. And “Back on Track” recalls 70s-era disco funk, reminiscent of something that Issac Hayes might have produced.
All in all, a great collection of songs by a seasoned journeyman performer, and I imagine that his live show is equally impressive. Definitely worth checking out!