Don Bryant – Don’t Give Up on Love | Album Review

Don Bryant – Don’t Give Up on Love

Fat Possum Records

CD: 10 Songs, 38:01 Minutes

Styles: Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues, Horn Blues, Ensemble Blues

Longevity, to artists, can be as arbitrary and fickle as public opinion. As they age, their work does, too, with some resembling fine wine and others vinegar. What’s the secret? What’s the magic formula to keep from souring or going stale when one’s no longer a young upstart? If I knew that, I’d be a multi-billionaire. Memphis soul legend Don Bryant knows, whether he’s super-rich or not. In his first album in decades, he encourages listeners, “Don’t Give Up on Love.” In this cruel and unpredictable world, losing faith in people an easy thing to do, but Bryant’s music is tailor-made to restore it. Featuring two covers and eight stellar originals, this CD will make a magnificent addition to any soul and blues lover’s collection. Need I say more? Perhaps this: Both those new to the genre and veteran listeners won’t find a single musical flaw.

The long and complicated hyperlink above will take Internet users to a succinct profile (provided by Fat Possum Records) of Don’s “First Album in Decades.” It reveals, “With an intrepid musical style informed by his church upbringing, Don Bryant first found success with his vocal group the Four Kings. After that group split, he was taken under the wing of Hi Records legend Willie Mitchell. Don started off singing lead for Willie’s live band, but soon found himself releasing a full length album on Hi and writing songs for the likes of Solomon Burke, Albert King, Etta James and many more.” He’s also known for his biggest hit, “I Can’t Stand the Rain.”

As for his co-musicians, they’re brilliant soul stars in their own right: “On Don’t Give Up on Love, Don is joined by multiple generations of Memphis studio legends, including Hi Rhythm Section members Charles Hodges (organ), Archie ‘Hubbie’ Turner (keyboard) and Howard Grimes (drums), Joe Restivo (guitar), and Scott Bomar (bass). Marc Franklin and Art Edmaiston, both of the Gregg Allman Band, contributed horns.” Other guests include Kirk Smothers on sax, John Paul Keith on guitar, Marc Franklin on trumpet and arrangements, and string artists Jonathan Kirkscey, Jesse Munson, Yennifer Correia, and Jennifer Puckett.

Yours truly would classify the following three original tunes as “great, greater and greatest.”

Track 03: “It Was Jealousy” – This torch number blazes hotter than either a medieval fire stick or a modern Mag-Lite. It may not be a blues song per se, but no one can deny the power of its harmonious hook. “It wasn’t me. It was jealousy that made me turn my back on you.” The background vocalists here almost comprise a Greek chorus: Percy Wiggins, Courtney Barnes, Chris Barnes, Susan Marshall and Daunielle Hill.

Track 05: “I Got to Know” – With a swinging beat and terrific singing all around, number five ain’t no jive. It takes listeners back to the 1950’s, whether they lived in that decade or otherwise. “I got to know. Is there someone else on your mind? So tell me, tell me – am I wasting my time?” It’s a call-and-response song, an echo song that’ll make crowds sing along at home and live concerts alike. Don’t be afraid to grab a partner and dance, even if you have four left feet.

Track 10: “What Kind of Love” – The album’s closer is like a firecracker, with a short fuse of two minutes and forty-four seconds and a lot of BANG! Joe Restivo’s guitar is sweet and sassy, as is the refrain: “What kind of love is this you got?” Bryant and his posse leave it up to listeners’ imaginations what it looks, sounds and feels like.

Don’t Give Up on Love, and don’t give up on Don Bryant. He’s still got it, and got it good!

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