Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones – Complicated Mess | Album Review

Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones – Complicated Mess

EllerSoul Records – 2018

13 tracks; 50 minutes

Doug Deming is originally from Detroit where for years he was the go-to guy to provide support for visiting musicians such as Kim Wilson and the late Lazy Lester. He relocated to the Tampa Bay area of Florida some eight years ago and since then has built up a strong local following at many clubs on the West coast of the state as well as touring across the US and Europe. His fourth CD release was recorded at Big Jon Atkinson’s California studio and the album marks something of a departure for Doug as he begins to move away from the format of a quartet with a harp player. For several years he has played in Florida with Madison Slim and toured with Dennis Gruenling but Slim has retired and Dennis has established a partnership with Nick Moss, so this CD finds Doug in transition, using harp players on just four tracks but adding sax to several others, as well as sharing guitar duties on two tracks with Little Charlie Baty. Doug handles lead vocals and guitar, Andrew Gohman is on bass and experienced drummer Marty Dodson completes the core band with Kim Wilson and Madison Slim on harp on two tracks each; Sax Gordon and Tino Barker add tenor and baritone sax to four tracks and Chris Codish on organ and Bob Welsh on piano also contribute; former band drummer Sam Farmer appears on one cut.

Doug’s ten vintage sounding originals are combined with three covers which show Doug’s varied influences: “You Rascal You” has been recorded by Louis(s) Armstrong, Jordan and Prima, this light, jazzy version benefiting from Little Charlie Baty’s additional guitar; Doug has played behind Lazy Lester and “Blues Stop Knockin’” is terrific with Kim Wilson wailing on harp, Bob Welsh on piano and the band getting up a real head of steam; Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’’ is played in T-Bone Walker rather than New Orleans style, propelled by Andrew’s double bass and the horns, Gordon taking a fine solo.

Doug shows that he knows Crescent City music on his own “Just A Moment Of Your Time”’ and “Someday Pretty Baby” has the voodoo beat we also associate with New Orleans, the horns adding to both tracks. “Need My Baby” is a rolling shuffle, the only track recorded in Florida, with some high-pitched harp from Madison Slim and Sam Farmer on drums. Kim Wilson’s harp on “Sweet Poison” adds an eerie tone to a moody song of fatal attraction. “Cookin’ At The Kitchen” introduces us to the cast of characters at the band’s local haunt in Florida (including Blues Blast’s own Mark Thompson – “music is his drug”). The title track features some fine picking and “Deep Blue Sea” features some of Doug’s deepest slow blues playing, enhanced by some great piano from Bob. The joyous “Hold On” (co-written by Doug’s wife Claudia) has classic Memphis rhythm guitar and organ on a soul-blues tune, showing a completely different side to Doug’s playing. Two contrasting instrumentals complete this fine album: “Captain’s Quarters” is a relaxed jazz-tinged conversation between Doug and Little Charlie, the title perhaps inspired by Doug’s other main activity, skippering a charter fishing boat in the Gulf; “Rat Killin’” is a fast-paced finale with the horns pushing the band and short solo features for everyone.

Any blues fans visiting the Tampa Bay area should make sure they catch a show by this band on their home turf or keep an eye open for them touring elsewhere: meanwhile all discerning blues fans need to add this superb CD to their collection.

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