Eric Demmer – So Fine
Gulf Coast Records – 2022
12 tracks; 51 minutes
A sax player, Eric Demmer started out as a roadie and got his first big break when he joined Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown’s touring band in 1993, a gig he retained until Gate’s death in 2005, including playing with Gate on Eric Clapton’s ‘From The Cradle’ tour. Demmer’s name may be familiar from credits on recent albums by The BB King Blues Band and Tito Jackson, but this is his debut release under his own name. Recorded in Houston, Texas, and produced by Eric and Gulf Coast label boss Mike Zito, Eric handles most of the vocals and plays sax, supported by a core band of Barry Seelen on keys, Hugo Rodriguez on guitar, Dennis Delfino on bass and Jerre Jackson on drums; The Grooveline Horns (Carlos Sosa, Fernando Castillo and Raul Vallejo) add support to some tracks, additional vocals come from Darrell Lacy, Melanie Covington and Eric’s daughter Danielle. Drummer Jordan Almes replaces Jerre on three cuts, Shawn Allen adds B3 to two tracks and there are guest appearances from Mike Zito, guitarists Jonn Del Toro Richardson, Mark May, and The Funky Rick Marcel.
The song writing credits are not given on the album but all seem to be original. The overall style is at the funky end of the blues spectrum, with a few gentler tunes mixed in for variety. Opener “Don’t Talk To Me” sets the pattern with funky bass lines underpinning a horn-driven tune as Eric sings in a gravelly, semi-spoken style before delivering an excellent sax break. Jonn Del Toro Richardson plays lead guitar on “She’s So Fine” which has a snaking latin rhythm before what is the outstanding song here, “Will It Ever Be The Same”, Mike Zito taking over the vocals on a wistful Americana tune with ringing guitar and a sax solo that builds beautifully from studied start to rousing finale, the lyrics apparently inspired by the terrible events of 9/11.
Eric injects humor into songs like “What Was I Thinking”, a funk-driven tune with spoken vocals about a relationship that does not turn out as Eric expected! Similarly, Eric proclaims that “I’m A Guitar Player”, although he does not actually play that instrument, just that he is one “deep down in my heart” on a fast-paced tune with Hugo’s lead work underpinned by Jonn’s second appearance, this time on rhythm guitar. More ringing guitar features on a rocking “I’m Alright” before Eric drops the tempo for a sensitive ballad, “Start It All Again” which is probably his best vocal of the set. “Get Out Of Town” bounces along with a full horn arrangement and wah rhythm guitar, overlaid by a striking slide guitar solo from Mark May. “Let Me Go” is another ballad, but this time Eric’s vocals sound strained, the track salvaged by the sax and guitar work. “Just Can’t Wait” and “Any Day Getaway” are both funky workouts, the latter featuring Eric’s daughter Danielle whose convincing vocals work well here. The final track has a familiar title, “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” but is not the Billy Myles/Freddie King song (though it clearly takes inspiration from those familiar lyrics) and provides a fast-paced end to the album with more fine sax work over what sounds like two guitarists though only Hugo is credited.
Eric’s debut album has some fine moments and will certainly appeal to those who enjoy the funky end of the blues and strong sax work.