Howlin’ At The Moon
11 tracks; 37 minutes
North Carolina’s Doug Prescott has been playing since the 60’s and he and his experienced band give us a very diverse set of material across a broad range of blues and Americana styles on his third release. Doug handles lead vocals and shares bass with Ken Johnson who also plays rhythm when Doug is on bass: Tommy Hartley is the lead guitarist except on one track where Johnny Gallagher guests and Andy Cheek on drums completes the core band. Keys are added to most tracks by Tony Bowman though Little Feat’s Billy Payne stops by on the title track to add Hammond and grand piano. Horns are added to four tracks by Eric Kulz (trumpet) and Jim Henderson (sax), with Mark Gloden adding a further sax on one cut. Backing vocals come from a variety of people across most of the songs: Melanie Olsen, Abigail Johnson, Christina McNair, Alexis Nelson, Keith Buckley, Jeff Hart. adds harp to one cut and additional percussion comes from Beverley Botsford on two – a huge cast list!
Fishing and the sea appear to be important to Doug. His previous release was entitled “The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea” and on their website the band are pictured on a boat. The CD artwork deserves special mention: on the front a fish is playing guitar and on the back a group of swordfish are celebrating the winning catch in the ‘10th Annual Fisherman Catching Contest’, the unfortunate victim suspended by his feet above a pier! The title track opens proceedings with a gently funky song about…fishing! Doug is out there but the fish are not biting so he has those blues. Doug’s voice is a little limited but does the job OK with good support from the backing vocalists. Billy Payne’s contribution here is excellent and he takes the main solo on piano, ably supported by Tommy’s slide. “99% Won’t Do” is more of a straight blues tune with the harp featured against a chugging rhythm punctuated by the horns. “Purple Heart In A Crown Vic” finds Doug singing in a deeper voice that recalls Mark Knopfler, especially with the guitar featuring in very Knopfleresque style. The song is mid-paced and tells the story of a Vietnam vet who has “taken some time for himself…and that’s cool”. “A Little O Dat” opens with acoustic guitars before a very Allmans feeling riff carries the chorus. The later part of the track makes that reference even clearer as Tommy switches from acoustic to electric and the piano/guitar duel is straight out of the ‘Brothers And Sisters’ era Allmans. “Don’t Let Our Love Go” brings a Caribbean lilt to the album, accentuated by the organ and steel drums (Tracy Thornton).
“If You Talk The Talk” is a little heavier, a short track on which the horns add punch to the guitar-led riff. “Hell” moves us into pure country with banjo and mandolin (Tim Stanbaugh and Danny Gotham) as Doug tells us that “Hell can be any place you aren’t”. Swirling organ, clavinet and the horns underpin Doug’s vocals on “A Million Ways”, a gently funky tune. The next cut takes us back out to sea, a cheerfully rocking tune with the piano driving the refrain, Doug suggesting that a combination of Jimmy Buffett and sunscreen will make for a “Smooth Sailin’ Day”! “Be The Promised Land” is a gentle acoustic tune with some nice harmonies before the CD ends with “Summer Of 1968” on which Johnny Gallagher plays lead guitar in very Dicky Betts style over a rocking rhythm with a touch of Bo Diddley in the acoustic riff from Doug.
This is a well-played and produced CD. All the material is original and the sheer variety means that there will be something for most fans of American music here. Not much of the album is straight blues but there is plenty to enjoy.