Deep Rush Records
11 songs – 44 minutes
Dexter Allen has come a long way from his birthplace in CrystalSprings, Mississippi. Starting out in a variety of gospel groups, he became lead guitarist and bandleader for the great Bobby Rush, playing the blues with Rush across the world, before striking out on his own a few years ago.
Bluez Of My Soul is Allen’s third solo album, after the equally unusually-spelled Bluezin My Way and Bluezin For Life on Airtight Records, but its his first on Bobby Rush’s Deep Rush Records. Indeed, he is only the second artist after Rush himself to release a CD on the label. And Blues Of My Soul is a fine reflection of the funky, gospel-infused blues that Allen has made his own.
Allen is backed on the album by his usual (and superb) road band of the Robinson brothers, comprising Fred (bass); Joey (keys, bass, guitar); and Jeremy (drums). They provide some serious energy and drive, especially to the upbeat numbers. Joey also engineered and mixed the album, and he has done a fine job, capturing a very “live” sound whilst retaining a crystalline clarity. The venerable Mr. Rush himself contributes harmonica to a couple of songs as well as adding an entertaining vocal introduction to “Ride This Train”, as he yells “All aboard! Dexter! Are you getting on this train or not? We’re going to a gig, baby. Get your guitar and let’s get on!”
Allen himself is an assertively bold singer and a nimble, funky rhythm guitar player, adding distinctive and original backing to songs such as “Ride This Train”, “Pudding & Rice” and “Monk Donky” (the lyrics to which are appropriately salacious as Allen sings “If you want to see me play and play it real funky, let me see you shake your Monk Donky”). He is also a fine soloist, favouring a heavily over-driven lead tone on his Fender Stratocasters, giving some songs a distinctly rock overtone.
One of the centrepieces of the album is the upbeat shuffle of “Blues Party” as Allen sings: “Tell them the bald-headed bluesman Dexter Allen’s in town. Just grab somebody’s hand and come on and just move your feet… Let me tell you why, because you all make me real darn nervous when you sit down in your seat.” Allen appears to have deliberately selected lyrics from various blues songs (“The Blues Is Alright”, “People Get Ready” and “Let The Good Times Roll” amongst others) and combined them with wit, enthusiasm and with his tongue firmly planted inside his cheek.
And all three qualities are found throughout the album. In the R&B-fused “Pudding & Rice”, he tells a girl “We had a good time, and partied all night. Making love to you was outta sight. I just love the way you walk; love the way you talk. I love the way you kiss; love the way you twist. But I got another love waiting at home. I can’t keep this thing going on. I wanna tell you something, you might think it ain’t nice. Hey there girl, your pudding ain’t as good as her rice.”
Allen’s humour can also be found in the various musical nods to other tracks that he subtly drops throughout the album, perhaps most noticeably in “Monk Dunky”.
Overall, Bluez of My Soul is a very impressive album of modern electric blues, with well-constructed and cleverly-written songs played with panache and no little humour. Well worth checking out.