CD: 14 Songs; 48:54 Minutes
Styles: Memphis Blues, Traditional and Contemporary Electric Blues
When A Bluesman Looks at Seventy, more than one milestone has been reached. Memphis’ “Daddy Mack” Orr knows this well. For his birthday this year, he has released a marvelously soulful retrospective, looking back on his life – lasting seventy years – and his career, lasting a quarter century if one counts when Orr decided to teach himself guitar. His promotional materials reveal: “Inspired by Albert King and others, he put down some money on a six-string electric at a Memphis pawn shop. He practiced and practiced at his North Memphis home until he got good. Real good.” Such is no exaggeration. “Daddy Mack” is not only the real deal when it comes to Memphis blues, but his songwriting skills are some of the best that yours truly has ever critiqued. A sample of his best lines include: “She loves the way the dollar folds”, and “The colors that fly are ‘Red, White, Blue and Green’” (song reviewed later). Fourteen original selections, from the course of Mack’s journey in the blues, comprise this hit CD of 2015.
Daddy Mack’s regular band consists of himself on vocals and lead guitar, James Bonner on rhythm guitar and background vocals, bassist Harold Bonner, and Fast Eddie Lester on drums. Joining him are several guest stars: organists Paul Brown, Adam Levin, and Joe Boogie; additional vocalists Troy Isom, Eddie Dattel, Charles Ponder and Nora Tucker; additional guitarists Isom, Matt Isbell, Wally Ford, and Brad Webb; saxophonist Carl Wolfe, Charlie Franklin on trumpet, and percussionist Mike Assad.
The fourteen tracks on this CD are like numbers on a winning lottery ticket: each is lucky. However, the following are this reviewer’s “Pick 3” selections:
Track 05: “You Don’t Have to Love Me” – This invitation for a hookup exemplifies our day and age of – well, hookups. “I’m not asking you to wear my ring. You don’t have to love me to make love to me,” Daddy Mack croons, along with harmonious background vocals and additional lead guitar by Troy Isom.
Track 06: “Red, White, Blue and Green” – The familiar hues of the U.S. flag may “fly”, but so does the color of money. Some people ‘have’, and some ‘have not’, but “it’s all about the dollar” for all of us: “You take out a loan on the house you just bought, skimp on your taxes, and hope you don’t get caught.” Desperate times call for desperate measures – hence the edgy tone.
Track 14: “After All These Years” – Blues can be raunchy or romantic, explosive or slow-swaying, high-octane or mellow ‘essential oil’ for the soul. Track fourteen exposes the softer side of Daddy Mack and company: “Real love don’t come easy, and it’s so hard to find, but these feelings for each other have stood the test of time…We’ve had some heartbreak, but we made it through the tears. We’ve been together after all these years.” Pull a partner close and slow-dance. Joe Boogie plays soft organ throughout.
When A Bluesman Looks at Seventy, it’s everybody’s birthday!