Danny Brooks & Lil Miss Debi – Are You Ready? The Mississippi Sessions
HIS House Records/AVA Entertainment
Texas transplants Danny Brooks and Lil Miss Debi met Tom Easley from AVA in 2019 and the two former Canadians and Easley set in motion the plan to record a throwback album in the small suburb of Jackson Mississippi of Raymond. Tom assembled a team of musicians to make this recording a reality. Brooks wrote all but one track, the John Prine song “Angel From Montgomery.” Danny handles the lead vocals, guitar, slide, harp and stompboard while Debi helps on vocals and cajon and adds her “The Deb Bone Suitcase Snare.” The back line of Joel May (drums) and Micah May or Geri O’Neil (bass) are solid throughout. Greg Martin adds guitar and slide as does John Fannin. The keys are handled well by Chalmers Davis and Sam Brady; Davis adds accordion while Brady does the piano work. James Lawlis does the baritone and tenor saxes, clarinet and flute and on “The Battle” the tuba is done by Peter Hysen and the trumpet by Paul Mitchell.
The title track starts things off. It’s a southern rocker with really nice horns and guitar work. A short tenor sax and guitar solo are also featured. “Jesus Had The Blues” follows, a slow and gritty tune about yearning for his love, and he says, “love is a hurting thing, that’s why Jesus had the blues.” A nice guitar solo is offered here and the organ support helps the musical flow. Things switch to a funky Caribbean style with “Jamaica Sun.” Here we get a good harp solo and the harmonica helps take this home, too. “We Do Whatever It Takes” is a somber, bluesy ballad with the organ and backing vocals giving us a churchy feel. Next we get a little rockabilly feeling with “Let Me Know,” a driving and high energy tune. We get a pretty guitar solo to savor, too. Up next is “No Easy Way Out,” a slower tune with slide, organ and horns making things interesting. We finally get to hear Lil Miss Debi leading the vocals for part of the tune and she does a fine job. The slide guitar is haunting and cool. “Angel From Montgomery” follows, with a sultry and easy going country feel to it. Debi returns and sings kind of angelically, as the title certainly implies. The harp and flow is a slow country ballad and it’s well done.
“Coming Home” is a bouncy tune and picks the pace up a bit and we get some testifying about returning home. The vocal work here is by far the best effort since the start. That is followed by “One More Mile (To Mississippi);” it’s got sort of a hill country vibe to it and the harp work is well done. The vocals again are better and the Debi’s back up is sweet. “Rock and Roll Was The Baby” hearkens to the roots of rock in the blues. It’s a down home cut that pays homage to the blues giving birth to the blues. More interesting harp here and some good call and response. “Where Will You Stand” is a Gospel blues that asks where will you stand on the day of judgement? It’s a cool cut with powerful lyrics and feel and we all go to church musically. The organ sets the tone and a little harp helps, too. “Hold On To Love” has that down home sound that guitar, organ and piano give us in this sad but slick downtempo number. The guitar solo is probably the best one of the album and really helps express the feeling of the cut. “Broken” rocks out and changes things up from the last track. It’s a bouncy, driven little cut that talks about how people and hearts can be broken but love repairs us and gets us back together. The slide guitar here is also nicely done. “Climb That Mountain” slows the pace back down with another blues ballad. The lyrics are powerful and tell a great story about growing and learning to become a better man. The harp returns to help out nicely again.
“Put A Little Rock and Roll In Your Soul” is a bouncy and jumping country piece from the hills with a call and response theme going. It’s fun and the harp gives it more of that do si do, get up and do an old time country dance feel. “Without Love” is a soulful song that talks about losing love and a broken heart. “Without love you can’t get very far,” is the choral theme; more harp work abounds. “Me And Brownie McGhee” is a bio song that tells the story of meeting Brownie and getting to play with him on stage. Harp soloing pays homage to McGhee here. “Tell Me About It” is an upbeat cut that explains life ain’t fair but together he and you can get through it if you do what the title says. “When I’m Holding You” returns to the ballad theme and the lilting electric guitar makes this slow southern rocker have feeling. The final track is “The Battle” and opens with some tuba which continues to carry the piece as the vocals grind out and the horns support the piece. The devil is telling us we’re in a battle for your soul in this dark conclusion to the album. Harp and guitar add their stuff in solos and throughout, but it’s big horn groove that also helps drive this along.
The original songs feature great lyrics and the performances are all solid musically. The one downside for me is Danny’s vocals; they are rough and gruff and his voice cracks a lot. I suspect that is part of his charm but it was a little off putting to me as he strains and tries to deliver real emotion. The emotion is there, however, and Brooks does get his feelings across. Debi’s voice is silky smooth and she backs Brooks with great harmonies; when she does get the opportunity to front the band, she does so superbly.
There is a lot of music here, 20 songs in all, 19 originals and one cool cover. Brooks delivers some really good tunes and if you can get by or like the vocals then things are good. A lot of good work went into the plethora of songs here. The instrumental work is great and the harmonies are excellent. Southern rock, roots music and a smattering of other styles get blended up well and offer up a nice variety here, with something for all musical tastes while blues rock solidly centers the effort.