Eric Jerardi – Occupied
7 songs – 28 minutes
Occupied is the seventh album from Dayton, Ohio-based singer/guitarist Eric Jerardi and it’s a very enjoyable – if a little short – collection of top class modern soul-blues songs. Recorded at Nutthouse Recording Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, Jerardi and producer David Z. have captured a warm, organic sound, as exemplified by the smoldering opener, “Do Right By Him”, where a chorus of horns herald Jeradi’s pleading vocals, supported by the glorious gospel-styled backing vocals of Marie Lewey and Cindy Walker. The song’s intensity gradually increases over the verses before leading to a wonderfully taut guitar solo.
It’s probably fair to say that Jeradi originally garnered attention for his guitar playing skills. On Occupied, however, the focus is very much on the song and on Jerardi’s warm, slightly husky but very soulful voice. Which is not to say there is no guitar to be heard on the album. Jeradi turns in a number of impressively sharp, melodic solos and his effort on the title track is particularly good, while he really lets loose on the funky “Don’t Take It Personally”. Coco Montoya’s original version (on his Suspicion album from 2000) was very much in the blues-rock camp, as one might expect of a song written by Jerry Lee Williams and Jeff Healey. Jeradi’s interpretation acknowledges this with its raucous wah-wah guitar solos but the backing vocals of Lewey and Walker and the horn stabs pull the song in slightly more of a R’n’B direction.
Jeradi wrote all the songs on the album other than “Don’t Take It Personally” and they are an absorbing set of tracks. He has a good ear for a smart lyric as well as a memorable guitar hook. The lyrics to the title track are printed on the inside of the CD cover and artfully document the loneliness and melancholy of a romantic breakup. The tempos of the tracks are predominantly on the slow or mid-paced side, which may make this more of a late-evening album, but it is none the worse for that.
It has to be said that the backing musicians on Occupied represent something of a dream band: it’s essentially the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. David Hood plays bass; Clayton Ivey handles piano and organ; Milton Sledge is on drums and Kelvin Holly is on rhythm guitar. Add in Charles Rose on trombone (and horn arrangements), Steve Herman on trumpet, Doug Moffet on saxophone and you’re getting close to the perfect band for the song-orientated R&B essayed on this album.
The only slightly adverse point about Occupied is that it finishes too soon. As the last notes of the late-80s Clapton-esque “In My Life” fade away, the immediate urge is to start the album all over again.
If you’re a fan of southern-styled soul-blues, you will definitely want to check out Occupied.