Chris Daniels, Hazel Miller, Dana Marsh & Friends – What We Did
Moon Voyage Records – 2021
10 tracks; 43.55 minutes
The three main players here are based in Colorado: Chris Daniels will be known from his work with Chris Daniels & The Kings whose last album Blues With Horns, Vol 1 was well received by fans and critics alike; Hazel Miller tours with Big Head Todd & The Monsters as well as running her own band, The Collective, for whom Dana Marsh is the regular keyboard player. These songs started out as a virtual concert to raise funds for Inner City Health, the first five songs recorded live in July 2020, the second five in October. Things then grew bigger as friends from the local music scene added parts virtually. Chris plays acoustic and electric guitar and shares the vocals with Hazel, Dana adding keys and B3. The additional musicians are Freddi Gowdy (vocals on three tracks), Victor Wooten (bass on two tracks), Todd Park Mohr (guitar on two tracks), Kenny Passerelli, (bass on two tracks), Sam Bush (mandolin on one cut), Christian Teele on drums and percussion, Greg Garrison on bass, Tom Capek on keys, B3 and bass, Mark Obliger and Linda Lawson (vocal harmonies on two tracks).
The album opens with “Takin’ It To The Streets”, Michael McDonald’s mega-hit for the Doobie Brothers, the layered keys and harmony vocals adding depth and Hazel and Chris taking alternate verses. The band plays it fairly straight, apart from Victor’s bubbling bass taking the instrumental lead, a nice touch. “Born Under A Bad Sign” is a real blues tune, albeit played more slowly than most versions, certainly slower than Albert King’s original of the Booker T Jones/William Bell tune; Big Head Todd sits in on this one to good effect. However, that visit to the world of blues comes to a shuddering halt with “Cheek To Cheek”, yes, the Irving Berlin song made famous by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; this version features Sam Bush’s mandolin but is otherwise a faithful reading of the soft shoe shuffle classic. Chris’ original “I’m Still Lookin’” is reprised from his band’s 2004 album The Spark, a latin-flavoured romantic tune with fine piano work by Dana. Hazel takes the lead on Al Jarreau’s “Could You Believe”, her gospel tones and the strong piano and organ work taking the listener to church though Hazel’s vocals were a little over the top for this reviewer..
The second set of five tunes starts with another familiar song, “What A Wonderful World”, written originally by George Weiss especially for Louis Armstrong, having been inspired by Satchmo’s ability to bring people of all races together. “Down Home Blues” has Chris picking up his slide guitar and exchanging volleys of guitar with Todd in a fast-paced interpretation of the George Jackson classic. The rest of the album is quieter: “Stealin’ Candy” must be close to how the original live broadcast must have sounded; “You’ve Got A Friend” was written by Carole King for her friend James Taylor and Chris and Hazel’s shared vocals evoke memories of both those icons of the 1970’s; “Better Days” was the title of Chris’ 2012 solo album and the wistful lyrics provide a gentle finale to the set.
As can be seen from these comments, there is not a lot of actual blues here but the album is well-produced and is in a good cause, as 20% of the proceeds will go to Inner City Health.