9 songs – 37 minutes
55 Rose Street is a blues studio project, written and produced by Florida-based bassist Mick Metz, whose company, Southern Red Bird, also provides full management services for 55 Rose Street including production, promotion, and distribution. Metz pulled in a variety of top class musicians to bring Misery to fruition, with a core band featuring drummer Rick Brunetti (whose resume includes Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods’ #1 hit, “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero”); guitarist/vocalist Heather Gillis (who currently holds down the guitar chair in Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band in addition to fronting her own band); and singer/harmonica-player, Chris Balding. Three guest artists also make appearances. Sarah Mac contributes sultry vocals to the lolloping opening track, “Black Ice.” Guitarist Pat Buchanan adds space-age guitar to “The Blues Is What I Live With” and raucous slide guitar to “Empty World” and “Juke Joint.” And Clyde Ramsey provides keyboards and vocals on “Juke Joint” and “Devil Done Put Me Out.”
Every studio-only project runs the risk of sounding disjointed or at least thematically incohesive due to the variety of musicians used and the fact that it takes time to develop a rapport with other players. Metz deserves great credit therefore for producing an excellent album of modern blues-rock that sounds like it was produced by a band that had been playing together for years. The pop of “Ray of Texas Sunshine” and “Juke Joint” sits easily next to the heavy riffing of “The Blues Is What I Live With”, the blues-rock of “Empty World”, the straight-ahead shuffle of “Thunderbolt” and the closing slow blues of “Misery.”
The lead vocals are shared between Balding, Gillis, Sarah Mac and Clyde Ramsey, while Brunetti and Metz lock down a series of irresistible rhythms with Metz picking a series of cool bass lines. Balding’s blues harmonica is the primary solo instrument, but both Gillis and Buchanan turn in a series of short, snappy guitar solos and neat rhythm patterns. Buchanan’s slide playing throughout “Empty World” is particularly impressive, while Gillis’s chiming Strat tones elevate “Ray Of Texas Sunshine” and add spice to the end of “Devil Done Put Me Out.”
Don’t be misled by the album’s title. Misery is actually an upbeat, life-affirming collection of music. Metz is a smart songwriter, delicately treading the fine line between blues and rock, with a fair amount of pop and soul thrown in. Lyrically, he is happy to subvert classic blues couplets, as in “Devil Done Put Me Out”, where Ramsey confesses: “I went down to the crossroads, the Devil done put me out. He said, ‘Son, I can’t perform miracles. You just got to figure it out’.”
55 Rose Street may be a studio project, but there is more than enough evidence on Misery to suggest a bright future should Metz and his crew decide to take the band on the road. A very entertaining release.