10 songs – 40 minutes
Lucky Man is the debut release from Las Vegas singer, Bob Gardner. Recorded at Audio Arts in Las Vegas (and hats off to organist and producer Brett Hansen for capturing such a pristine yet cutting sound), it features 10 songs all written or co-written by guitarist Eric Walters that nestle in the category of modern electric blues, with hints of soul and blues-rock thrown in.
Kicking off with the upbeat shuffle of “Aint’ Gonna Worry No More”, there is a confidently assertive authority to the music that provides a solid foundation to underpin Gardner’s muscular vocals. Equally comfortable on the rumba of “Dallas”, the funk of “Shotgun Shack” ballads such as “Not Gonna Let You Go” and “Johnny’s Door”, or even the Huey Lewis and The News-esque “What’s Your Name”, the musicians exhibit a tangible maturity and control, whilst still tapping into the emotional essence of each song.
The core band on the album comprises drummer Aziz Bucater, bassist Rick Champion, and guitarist Walters. Keyboard duties are shared between Hansen (who also contributes masterful tuba bass on the New Orleans-esque closer, “Ain’t Dead Yet”) and organist/pianist Jack Myers, while the great Bill Holloman (formerly with the late, great Danny Gatton) contributes superb horn parts to a number of tracks – his saxophone solo at the beginning of “Shotgun Shack” is eviscerating. Rich Steele guests on guitar on “Johnny’s Door.”
Bucater and Champion are a top drawer rhythm section, providing the primer over which Walters, Hansen, Myers and Holloman lay down a series of short, melodic and highly effective solos as well as thoughtful, distinctive rhythm parts (Walters’ rhythm guitar on “Shotgun Shack” is both original and toe-tappingly memorable), whilst never losing sight of the need to support the song and the singer. Gardner himself has a rough-hewn, bar-room brawler of a voice, reminiscent of the likes of Joe Cocker and Paul Cox that still conveys an emotional vulnerability.
Lucky Man is a very impressive first offering from Gardner, who benefits from Walters’ well-constructed songs and the band’s sparkling performances. Indeed, the release feels very much like a “band” offering rather than a singer with backing musicians. It is perhaps unfortunate therefore that the CD was provided for review with negligible background or biographical information. At the time of writing, Gardner’s website, as listed on the CD cover, is awaiting ICANN verification and there is very little other information about Gardner easily accessible online. As such it is difficult to know how the album came to be produced or what Gardner’s next steps will be. Let’s hope however he builds on this highly enjoyable release. It’s a debut to be proud of.