Billy Price – Person of Interest | Album Review

Billy Price – Person of Interest

Little Village Foundation LVF 1065

www.billyprice.com

13 songs – 59 minutes

Pittsburgh-based Billy Price could have called it a career after the release of the three-CD set 50+ Years of Soul last year. Thank goodness, though, the honey-toned vocalist definitely isn’t done yet. The Blues Music Award winner and frequent nominee holds nothing back on this all-original, 13-song disc, an album that’s destined for more honors ahead.

A star since the ’70s, when he debuted with the Keystone Blues Band and rose to international prominence as the vocalist for blues-rock legend Roy Buchanan, he hit the absolute top of the blues world in 2016 with This Time for Real, the album paired him with Chicago soul and gospel giant Otis Clay and took home honors for soul-blues album of the year.

Billy’s a dynamic, silky-smooth performer, and he’s at his absolute best on this disc, which was produced by Grammy winner/drummer Tony Braunagel and captured at Ultratone Studios in Studio City, Calif., by Johnny Lee Schell, the guitarist in both the Taj Mahal and Legendary Blues Bands.

All of the material on this one was written during the pandemic, Price says, some in partnership with Jim Britton, his longtime keyboard player, and others with guitarist Fred Chapellier, a major force in the French blues scene and the man with whom Billy shares credits on two CDs released on the Dixiefrog imprint in Europe in the past decade.

He’s backed by an all-star lineup that includes bassist Larry Fulcher and keyboard player Jim Pugh from Taj’s band, guitarists Josh Sklair and Shane Theriot with guest appearance from Joe Bonamassa. Braunagel handles percussion along with Lenny Castro. And bassists James “Hutch” Hutchinson and Reggie McBride add their talents, too. The horn section includes Ron Dziubla and Eric Spaulding on saxes and Mark Pender on trumpet with backing vocals from Maxayn Lewis, Fred White and Will Wheaton.

The horns fire out of the gate for the medium-fast tempo pleaser, “Inside That Box,” with Price wondering about the identity of “that shady guy” keeping company with his lady but assuring her that – despite his curiosity – the answer can be kept under lock and key because he’s never going to demand to know. It’s driven forward by a propulsive beat that’s amplified by choral responses and horn accents. The action slows only slightly for the driving, minor key “Song I Never Heard Before,” which uses musical terms to describe the need for change after his housemate continues repeating the same complaints he’s heard in the past.

The speedy “She Checks All the Boxes” brightens the mood from the downstroke as Billy announces that it’s “satisfaction guaranteed” every time he’s with his lady even though she might not be his friends’ cup of tea before the heart wrenching ballad “Mercy” requests compassion after some unspoken, major offense. The funk kicks in for the title song, “Person of Interest,” which describes a neighbor who’s both annoying and watching Price’s every move before the upbeat “Can’t Get Enough” returns to the subject of a woman who keeps the singer warm at night.

The slow blues, “Change Your Mind,” is an intense tribute to Buchanan, featuring Bonamassa’s burning guitar licks throughout. It’s the unsuccessful wish to put the singer – who hanged himself in a jail cell in 1988 – on the right track in his troubled life. The soulful “They Knew” provides some respite despite dealing with one’s uncertain fears and doubts before the Latin-flavored “A Certain Something” finds Billy attracted to an irresistible woman who wouldn’t ordinarily draw his interest.

Unfortunately, however, it’s apparent that it was a mistake because Price describes himself as “The Gift” in the next tune because all she does is take. The illustration of a woman “Crying at the Stoplight” follows before the sweet ballad, “I Lose It,” describes the seeming end of a relationship and the album closes with “Damage Control.”

Perfect…just perfect! Get this one today.

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