Linus – 2013
11 tracks; 45 minutes
Canadian blues institution Downchild return with a new CD, their 17th to date. Operating since 1970 their nearest equivalent is probably Roomful Of Blues though this set contains no reworkings of older classics, as Roomful usually do. In fact all the material comes from within the band, eight from leader Donnie Walsh, two from Chuck Jackson and one from Gary Kendall. Donnie plays guitar and harmonica, Chuck sings, Gary plays bass, with Pat Carey on sax, Peter Jeffrey on trumpet, Michael Fonfara on keys and Mike Kirkpatrick on drums.
The CD opens in swinging style with the title track which rocks along wonderfully, the horns prominent, the piano dancing and the harp soloing like a third horn part – an irresistibly catchy tune for the dancers. “I’m Always Here For You” follows with another catchy tune, just a hint of New Orleans in this one, Donnie taking a solo on baritone guitar, Michael contributing a swirling organ solo and the horns again playing an integral part. There is more of a rocking blues feel to “I Need A Woman”, especially in the strong guitar solo before the pace drops for the ballad “Blue Moon Blues”, the first of Chuck Jackson’s tunes, co-written with Pete Schmidt and Shane Scott. It’s a slow blues which opens with some gentle guitar and piano beneath Chuck’s vocal before the horns come in on the second verse. The longest cut on the album affords the space for an extended guitar solo from Donnie. That NO feel recurs on “Fasten Your Seat Belt”, an apt title for a fast-paced rocker with great second line drumming from Mike, a storming sax solo from Pat and Donnie back on harp. “This Road” features Donnie on slide, Chuck’s slightly deeper voice reflecting a feeling of reminiscence in the lyrics: “Those were the days and they won’t be back no more”. Michael’s honkytonk piano adds to the old-fashioned feel on this one.
The horns are absent from the second half of the album. “Mississippi Queen” (not to be confused with the Mountain song) is Chuck’s song about travelling with an itinerant girl singer through the delta from Memphis to New Orleans. “One In A Million” is a catchy tribute to that special person in your life, a touching song with nice harmonies and the organ providing a warm blanket with Donnie’s expressive slide also a strong feature. “Don’t Wait Up For Me” is another rocker with piano and slide guitar at its heart. “Worn In” is bassman Gary’s contribution and it’s a good song with some nice wordplays: “I’m tired, but I’m not tired out. There’s spark left in my battery, throw the switch and let it out”. Donnie’s harp and Michael’s twinkling piano work very well here as the main featured instruments. The closing instrumental “Scattered” is a feature for Donnie’s harp playing as he solos over a great shuffle from the rhythm section and Michael’s piano.
This is another solid album from Downchild. As a lover of horn sections this reviewer would have enjoyed hearing more from Pat and Peter but there is not a weak track on the album, so that is a minor criticism!