Committee Of Vultures – Everybody Wants The Blues
Jersey Delta Records – 2022
12 tracks; 58 minutes
Committee Of Vultures is a loose ensemble of experienced musicians based in New Jersey. The members’ careers include stints with Bob Dylan, The Blues Brothers Band, Lenny Kravitz, Rick Derringer, Donald Fagen and Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes. The album contains twelve songs written by Robert VanKull who sings on some songs (and plays guitar and harmonica) and the album was produced by Benny Harrison and Bob Zaleski. A large number of musicians are involved: Benny Harrison is on keyboards and guitar, Kevin Hadley, PK Layvengood, Robert Mills and Steve DeAcutis are on guitar, bass duties are shared between Jack Daley, Glen Burtnik, Brandon Morrison, Tony Servedio, Charlie Torres, Gerry Babo and Kenny Aaronson, drums between Dave Halpern, Ray Grappone, Lee Falco, Andy Kenopensky and Joe Bellia; pedal steel comes from Jimmy Ryan, horns from Al Chez, Darrell Hendricks and Baron Raymonde, accordion from Kraig Greff, fiddle from Tim Carbone and harp from Rob Paparozzi. Vocals are spread around with Rob Paparozzi, Ken Darcy and Robert Mills on one song each, writer Robert handling seven and Ada Dyer contributing to four; backing vocalists include Lisa Lowell, Sheryl Marshall, Patti Maloney, Leslie Wagner and George Unverzagt. The music covers a lot of ground with soul, country, rock and Americana all competing with the blues for space at the table.
“Lightning Struck The Crossroads” is a strong opener, fine gospel-influenced vocals by Ada Dyer on a strange tale of a storm in Nevada, the lyrics full of fairground characters and twin guitars exchanging strong riffs and delicate arpeggios. Robert’s gruffer tones explain why “Everybody Wants The Blues”, starting with biblical references to Moses, John and Paul (the Saints rather than the Beatles, one assumes), the blues quotient raised by harp and slide guitar, and we continue with the blues on “Jenerosty”, a cautionary tale of tough streets and low lives, a song delivered by Rob Paparozzi who also plays harp. “Criminal Minds” combines rock guitar, slide and accordion on a pounding tune on which Robert sings about a wild character, not a song for the faint-hearted with some lyrics that would not pass the test for radio! Ada is back on vocals for another tale of seedy night life as the central character is “Dressed To Get Naked”, very likely if the barman keeps serving all those drinks she mentions! This one is enhanced by horns and Ada again does a sterling job. Robert takes us out West on “Across The Thorny Country”, campfire harmonica and jangly guitars suiting the themes of the song which is perhaps the furthest away from the blues on the album.
The album is divided into two sides and “Crossroads Dancing” opens side two, Robert Mills handling the vocals and the combination of pedal steel, fiddle, accordion and bass harmonica suit the lyrics which seem to be inspired by Scottish folk themes. The horns make a second appearance on “Terrible Driver”, Robert bemoaning the skills of his girl behind the wheel and confessing to the cop that “I was only ridin’ shotgun, the lady is my girlfriend and I’m a happily married man – she’s a terrible driver, but I’m the one who pays her fine, sir”! “Our Lady Of Angles” features Ken Darcy’s higher pitched vocals and pedal steel, giving the tune a definite country feel. Robert is joined by Ada on soulful harmony vocals on “Book Of Kings”, another song with plenty of biblical references, albeit linked to modern America in lines like the closing “I’d trade Manhattan for a bag of rings to see my name in the Book Of Kings”. Acordion, banjo and mandolin are all on on “Vainglory” as Robert tells the tale of one Savage Henry, once the boss of the town, the tune also including a fine electric guitar solo. The final cut “Expert On Grease” makes lyrical play around Greece, grease and grief as Ada sings the choruses featuring the female character, Robert the male character. The song has a stately musical feel and recounts a doomed romance and was, for this reviewer, the outstanding song on the album, albeit not at all a blues tune.
One final comment is that many of Robert’s songs have extended lyrics and the imagery therein is impressive, ranging from tales of urban back streets to widescale vistas of open country, some including a welcome touch of humour, many focussing on darker themes. Much of this album falls outside the blues but those with wider tastes should find something to appreciate here.