Greasy Gravy – When The Game Is On | Album Review

Greasy Gravy – When The Game Is On

Big H Records

11 tracks/44:55

Here is another band that mines the blue-eyed soul tradition, coming to you straight from Norway. With seven members, including two horn players, Greasy Gravy sounds like a throwback to a bygone musical era. But that old-school sound gets a fresh approach on nine originals with music by guitarist Espen Liland. The lyrics were primarily written by lead singer Tom E. Holmlund, with three songs from the pen of the late R.C. Finnigan, a transplanted Chicagoan who mentored many musicians on the Norwegian blues scene, including Christoffer “Kid” Andersen.

The band excels on tracks like “Like A Stone” and “I’m A Worried Soul,” both brimming with pain of love lost, thanks to Holmlund’s stirring vocal presentations. They cruise along in high gear on “Good Thing,” as Kasper Vaernes on saxophone and Tom Erik Antonsen on trumpet play vibrant flourishes over the taut groove laid down by Rune Endal on bass and Alexander Pettersen on drums, now the drummer for Rick Estrin & the Nightcats. “Tell It To My Heart” would have been a “Pick To Click” in a bygone era when real music filled the radio airwaves. The bright horn lines and catchy rhythm make the track a joy to listen to.

“Love On The Rocks” will spark some “that sounds familiar” moments as Holmlund slowly tears your heart out portraying a man drinking to forget his situation – “facing love on the rocks, and a heartache on the side”. The title track features the band’s keyboard player, Magnus Ostvang, on the organ along with a biting Vaernes sax excursion. The mood lifts considerably on “When Love Comes Around,” as Liland and Ostvang get a chance to showcase their talents. “Everybody Understands The Blues” sticks to the soul side of the street, with Liland varying the sonics by switching to slide guitar.

Pettersen supplies a big beat on a cover of “Love Potion No. 9” that threatens to overpower the track while the horns add a dramatic flair. A bonus track, a cover of Al Green’s “Memphis Train,” is a highlight simply because the band finally cuts loose, getting low-down and funky. It is one final reminder that Greasy Gravy has assimilated the essence of soul music and now, with the first studio album of their career, they are ready to pay reverent homage to that American art form. This one is will most assuredly bring plenty of listening pleasure.

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