11 tracks / 48:24
Philadelphia’s AC Steel and the Galvanizers is a slick band and their new disc, Now or Never, is perfect for listeners who want plenty of guitar with their blues. You may never heard of their frontman, Stephen Solotist, but he took an interesting path to get to this point in his music career.
An awesome guitarist, Solotist and his band flirted with the big time back in the 1970s, opening for big name acts such as the Allman Brothers and Pink Floyd. After shipping off to England for a while and turning down a slot with UFO, he eventually came back to the States and entered the world of day jobs and daily commutes. But he also stayed in the music game, playing gigs with the Jukerockers and the Dukes of Destiny.
Stephen is joined on Now or Never by the Galvanizers, whose members include “Chicago” Carl Snyder on the keys, Rich Curtis on the bass, Bud Manton on the skins, and Arlyn Wolters with the backing vocals (most of these folks are also members of the Dukes of Destiny). The disc was cut at Buckeye Studios in the City of Brotherly Love by co-producer Peter Richan. Ten of the eleven tracks on this album are originals that were written by Solotist, and apparently he is a capable singer and songwriter, in addition to his prodigious guitar skills.
The disc starts off with a taste of edgy blues-rock, “Can’t Keep the Big Man Down,” and this tune is the story of Kevin McCann (the singer and guitarist for the Little Red Rooster Blues Band), who is recovering from Guillain-Barre syndrome. Joining into the fray with his harmonica is another Rooster member, Dave Holtzman, and he has a sweet tone!
The mood changes dramatically for the next song as a pair of locals join in: Wanamaker Lewis on banjo, and Larry Feldman on fiddle and mandolin. This instrumentation gives “What Would Muddy Say” more of a roots feel, as Stephen ponders how historical figures such as Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, and Frederick Douglass would interpret the state of society today. The vocal harmonies between Wolters and Solotist really make this song special. Lewis and Feldman also help out on the lone cover on this disc, an acoustic and folksy take on Robert Johnson’s “Come On in My Kitchen,” featuring harp from John Colgan Davis (another member of the Dukes).
The band also lays down a few tracks that are more whimsical, and some listeners may find the funky “Little Cat Purr” to be adults-only material. There is also a slow-burning ode to the misuse of alcohol, “Tequila Seals the Deal,” and the mother of all stalking songs, “Love Hate Letters.” And finally, the album finishes up with “Too Many Guitar Slingers,” an uptempo blues piece where Stephen bemoans the surplus of guitarists on the market, and he warns “if you want to get paid and have it made in the shade, don’t become a become a guitar slinger.” Snyder throws down a nice piano solo here and Curtis also get the chance for a bass solo, driving home the point of this song. For a change of pace, there is also a cool instrumental featuring AC’s guitar, and “Steelman’s Stroll” is a fun two and a half minute romp, just in case anybody doubted Solotist’s guitar slinger qualifications.
Now or Never is a neat album from AC Steel and the Galvanizers, and their particular brand of guitar-driven blues is fresh and fun. Please note that should you happen to purchase a copy of this CD, a third of the funds will be donated to Kevin McCann to help defray the expenses for his medical care. And, if you get a chance, head over to the band’s website and check out their gig schedule. They have some dates coming up, and if you are anywhere around Philadelphia area you should make the time to see one of their shows. There is a lot of experience in this group, which should translate well to the stage!