Dane Phillip Smith – I’ll Carry On
10 tracks/44:25 minutes
Dane Phillip Smith fell in love with the blues early in life. When he was 13, he heard Chicago blues on a PBS radio broadcast, and his career moaning the blues was launched. Smith is the former founder of New Cali Outcasts, the Blue Rails, and Dane Phillip Smith and the Silvertones. This appears to be his inaugural effort as a solo artist, and he’s backed here by Stephen Perakis on bass and Romeo Presutti on drums. Smith’s core band gains ever more sustaining power with the addition of Nicolle “Nikki” D Brown on pedal steel, “Big Mike” Gilliland on harmonica, Linda Dachtyl on B3, Ted “The Lonesome Harpman” Reich on tenor sax, Bruce “Saxophone Jesus” Soble on tenor and baritone sax, and Holly Moretti on background vocals.
Smith’s snaking lead riffs weave fiercely through “Without You,” an aching, yearning ballad of loss and love. Smith’s guitar on this languid jazz blues tune recalls the early Kim Simmonds on Savoy Brown’s Looking In. The opening of the “Blues That’s All” recalls War’s “Slipping into Darkness,” but after only a few bars, the tune slips into Smith’s own riff on ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago.” Dachtyl’s B3 and Soble’s searing sax turn the tune one more turn toward the free jazz of Steely Dan’s “Show Biz Kids.” “Blues That’s All” showcases the deep talent of the band and their ability to improvise and take us on a musical journey that has plenty of twists and turns while remaining true to the music’s central direction.
The album kicks off with “Lover’s Curse,” a rollicking gypsy blues that features Gilliland’s blowing, skittering harp work. The rockin’ blues pulls us along and out of our chairs. The lyrics—”it may be voodoo/it could be sin/but something’s got me in this shape I’m in/where I’m headed man I don’t know/to hell and back baby here I go”— propel Smith’s driving riffs and Soble’s smoking harp work. It’s part rock and roll intertwined around all blues. Brown’s sizzling pedal steel opens “Your Love’s Gone Away,” creating a somber mood that soon disappears into Gilliland’s scorching and screaming harp work; the urgency of the song builds as the singer’s regret over love lost mounts. The title track closes the album with a spare acoustic blues—featuring a duel between Smith’s guitar, his vocal, and Gilliland’s harp—and it’s a pretty typical blues tune full of resignation cloaked in determination.
While Smith’s lyrics might be the weakest link on this new album, there is no doubt that he’s a powerful guitarist who’s a great band leader that can deliver any kind of blues tune with a punch or a kiss.