Early Times & the High Rollers – Electric City
Dealer’s Choice Records
11 songs – 46 minutes
New York City street poet/blues-rocker and SiriusXM deejay Early Times hit all the right notes with The Corner, his 2021 release that featured tough rhythms and gritty, clever lyrics, and keeps the beat going with this all-original follow-up aided by guest appearances from Blues Hall of Famer Bobby Rush and Detroit powerhouse Eliza Neals.
Early grew up in Sacramento, Calif., where he established himself as a bluesman to be reckoned in the Sacramento Music Awards by compiling more nominations than anyone in its history in addition to taking home top honors as its guitar player of the year. He also owned an internationally distributed record label there for a while, during which he teamed with future blues giant Johnny Heartsman in a jazz combo.
A career in rockabilly and swing followed prior to touring nationally as the lead guitarist for vocalist E.C. Scott at the height of her career. Early subsequently joined Sirius Satellite Radio in 2001 seven years prior to its merger with XM Satellite Radio, where he became a major player in the digital airplay revolution. He’s been based out of the East Side of Manhattan since 1998, where he operates currently Manhattan Recording and Dealer’s Choice Records out of his studio.
In addition to Rush and Neals, who sit in on one song each, Early’s joined here with a potent veteran lineup that includes Brian Mitchell (Levon Helm, Bob Dylan) on keys, Anton Fig (David Letterman Band, Cyndi Lauper) on drums and Conrad Korsch (Rod Stewart) on bass. The sessions were produced by Jay Messina, who’s worked with Miles Davis, Kiss, Cheap Trick and more.
A brief but powerful guitar hook kicks off the stop-time “Aloha, Leilani,” a medium-paced shuffle delivered with upbeat gusto. The singer announces he’s about to leave town — possibly for the last time — but invites the lady over for one last fling, noting that she sways like a palm tree and that he loves the way she bends, then adding: “You’ve always been my best friend and my favorite who-o-o…a-a-ah!” Early’s rockabilly past resurfaces in a brief solo.
“Good Soul Music” features a duet with Bobby and comes with a funky, percussive, uptempo good-time island beat “Orphan Train,” a straight-ahead blues, describes a nightmare about trouble in an alley in which “somebody lost an only child and someone said ‘so long.’” Borrowing the title from a welfare program that transported children from the Northeast to the Midwest during the Great Depression, Early feels like he’s been riding those tragic rails for so long and wonders what he did to deserve it.
The slow blues, “Heartbreak Insurance,” follows and describes a “divorce estate sale” in which everything must go before the rocker “American Kid” announces that his friends can take all he has but that he’ll still take a bullet for them if need be. It flows into “Ching-a-Ling,” which celebrates having money in his pocket, good friends and more before “Tippin’ Through the Tulips” blasts off at breakneck speed, chockful of thinly veiled sexual innuendo.
The tempo slows dramatically and Eliza joins Early at the mic for “Bonnie & Clyde,” a rocker that celebrates a relationship in which the lovebirds have “too much fun and wouldn’t have it any other way.” Urban funk kicks in with a plea for “Tips for the Crew” next before “Dark Chocolate” – which describes a lady who looks “good enough to eat” – and the jazzy, stop-time instrumental, “Succubus,” bring the action to a close.
Contemporary blues with bite, you’ll love this one!