Andy Santana – Watch Your Step! | Album Review

andysantanacdAndy Santana – Watch Your Step!

Delta Groove Productions– 2015

13 tracks; 49 minutes

Andy Santana has been a well-kept secret in Northern California for many years. He has played in the area for some 35 years and produced several independent CDs but with his first on a national label the rest of the world now has a real chance to discover this triple threat as Andy sings, plays harp and guitar!  The CD is attributed to Andy and ‘The West Coast Playboys’ and that name covers a veritable who’s who of talent: Rusty Zinn (who produced three tracks), Anthony Paule and Mighty Mike Schermer are among the guitarists involved, Bob Welsh, Nate Ginsberg and Lorenzo Farrell play keys and the rhythm players include Mike McCurdy and Mike Phillips on bass, Robi Bean, June Core and D’Mar on drums.  Horns appear on three tracks (Eric Spaulding and Frankie Ramos – tenor sax, Jack Sanford – baritone sax, Manny Angel – trumpet) and the whole was recorded at Greaseland Studios where producer Kid Andersen played a wide range of instruments including guitar, bass and keys.  Kid’s wife Lisa Leu Andersen sings backing vocals on three tracks.  The material covers a range of R n’ B, soul and blues styles with four originals and nine covers.

The title track is the old Bobby Parker tune once covered by the other Santana (no relation) but this version takes us back to Bobby’s original. Andy’s lead guitar is scintillating above Kid’s baritone rhythm guitar and outstanding drumming from D’Mar.  Andy clearly likes the rhythms of New Orleans and Dave Bartholomew’s repertoire supplies two songs, the bouncy “Playgirl” with some full-blown harp from Andy and “Go On Fool” which closes the album with some great horn work and twangy rhythm from Anthony Paule.  Bob Welsh’s piano leads the way on another NO influenced piece “You May Not Know” and Andy’s short harp solo here is superb.  The horns make another significant contribution to ZZ Hill’s “One Way Love Affair” which is one of the standout tracks here, Andy playing some solid lead on a soulful piece.  Equally soulful is Mack Rice’s “Love Sickness” which Andy sings very well, Lorenzo taking a fine organ solo.  Chuck Willis’ “Can’t You See” gives us a chance to hear Andy’s approach to a slow blues and his voice again suits the song really well, Anthony supplying the subtle guitar lines.

Kid Andersen’s fellow Nightcat Rick Estrin shares writing credits on “No Double Talk” and you can hear some of his comic style in this piece of 50’s style R n’ B.  Andy’s solo writing credits come in a run of three songs towards the end of the CD.  “Greaseland” is a funky instrumental named after the studio where the album was recorded and features no fewer than 5 lead guitarists who each take a verse (Bob Welsh, Andy, Anthony, Kid, Mighty Mike).  In contrast “You Smell Like Cookies” has some amusing lyrics and swings like crazy with Andy’s harp, Bob’s piano and Anthony’s guitar taking the solo honours.  The short “What’s Wrong” is a rocker with Kid’s baritone guitar featured alongside more fine organ from Lorenzo.

As with most of Kid Andersen’s Greaseland recordings this one has an authentic 50’s feel and Andy proves a versatile frontman with the varied combinations of musicians featured here.  Definitely a disc worth investigating.

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