Debbie Bond and the TruDats – That Thing Called Love |Album Review

debbiebondcd Debbie Bond and the TruDats – That Thing Called Love

 Blues Root Productions

 9 tracks / 39:33

 Sometimes you get something great when it is least expected, which is the case with Debbie Bond and the TruDats’ new CD, That Thing Called Love.  This material was originally recorded in a big army surplus tent out in the hills of West Nashville as a live performance for the WRFN Radio Free Nashville’s Mando Blues Show.  When the smoke cleared, it turned out that the music and chemistry were so good that OmegaLab Studio’s Rob McClain was able to mix and master the recordings into something very special.

Debbie Bond has over 30 years of Alabama blues experience and has toured the US and Europe with legendary bluesmen, including Johnny Shines, Little Jimmy Reed, Willie King, Eddie Kirkland, and Jerry “Boogie” McCain.  Since 1995 she has mostly run her own crew, and released her debut album in 1998.  Debbie gives back to the blues community and is the founder of the non-profit Alabama Blues Project, which is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of blues from the Heart of Dixie.

That Thing Called Love is Debbie Bond’s third release, and it was accomplished with the bare minimum of personnel.  Debbie provided the vocals, rhythm guitar, and lead guitar, and she is joined by her husband Rick Asherson on keyboards, keyboard bass, harmonica and backing vocals. He also acted as producer for this project.  Dave Crenshaw was the drummer for the majority of this record and guest saxophonist Tom Pallardy came on board to lend a helping hand.  There are nine tracks, seven of which were written by Bond and Asherson, and three of them were previously unreleased.

The first track is a cover of Solomon Burke’s “You’re the Kind of Trouble;” you may have seen this Holmes Brothers song being performed on the Nashville musical drama tv series last year.  There is almost too much to process while listening to this soulful pop-oriented blues tune: Debbie has a beautiful voice and can play a fine guitar, Asherson and Crenshaw are tight as brothers, and this is one of the best-mixed live albums you will ever find.  It is hard to compare Bond’s voice to any contemporary artist, but in a nutshell her sound is equal parts throaty and melodic and she is spot-on with her intonation and phrasing — there is nothing like decades of real-world experience to hone one’s craft. 

The other cover is also from the Holmes Brothers and “Feed My Soul” is a soulful ballad that highlights Asherson’s bass keys and electric piano.  Pallardy’s sax makes the mood on this track, and it is impressive how reserved and disciplined he is, playing only what is needed.  Too often sax players get a little out of control in live situations and kill the vibe, but that does not happen here.

The logical assumption would be that “Steady Rolling Man” is an ode to Debbie’s husband, who she met when they were both touring with the late Willie King.  It certainly is a good description of his playing style and Rick Asherson delivers the goods with his speakeasy piano in this New Orleans flavored song.  Crenshaw lays back, grabs his brushes and mutes his drums to complete the picture.  This is an ambitious tune as it is is a departure from the rest of the show and it is a vocally difficult song, but Debbie and the TruDats pull it off and it shines as the standout track of That Thing Called Love.

“Tarragona Blues” appears twice on the album, and the second version is sequenced as the final track in an extended re-mix that features Ray Robinson on drums (Crenshaw moved over to Latin percussion), and Jonathan Blakney on background vocals and additional percussion.  The extra personnel is needed as this is a bossa nova tour de force.  It ends up being a shout-out to Debbie’s Spanish fans who appreciate her jazzy blues stylings, and she treats them (and us) with hearty vocals that are specific to their land and she throws in a smooth Telecaster break for good measure.  

Debbie Bond and the TruDat’s That Thing Called Love is a slickly-produced CD, but since it was recorded live it has a raw energy that is missing from most studio projects.  It is a great example of Alabama blues and soul from the premier ambassador of the genre, and you should definitely make the time to give it a listen!

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