Jeff Dale and the South Woodlawners – Blood Red Moon | Album Review

Jeff Dale and the South Woodlawners – Blood Red Moon

Pro Sho Bidness

11 songs, 33 minutes

Jeff Dale is a great Bluesman. He is one of the many real deal Chicago disciples following in the footsteps of white-boy acolytes such as Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield. Having worked with legends such as Lowell Fulson, 2021’s excellent Lowell Fulson Live!, and David “Honeyboy” Edwards, award winning DVD/CD I’m Gonna Tell You Somethin’ that I Know: Live at the G Spot, Jeff Dale has spent over 40 years building up his dues making himself a hell of a career. On his newest record Blood Red Moon, Dale and his band The South Woodlawners lay down a fresh blast of old school informed modern Blues that vamp and stomp.

Jeff Dale sings and writes with a knowing smirk. A slightly nasally gruff tenor, Dale cleverly spins yarns about love, depression, love, love making and his sweet home Chicago. Supported by Aaron Barnes on bass, Glen Doll on harmonica, Brian Lara on drums, Derek Phillips on keys, Jon Siembieda on guitar, Steve Sax on, well, saxes, with help on a few tracks from Dane Little on cello and Elizabeth Hangan on background vocals.

Together this unit creates something fresh and familiar. It is so hard to hit that perfect balance of reverence and invention. Dale’s guitar, sometimes sliding, complemented by his band and bolstered by his clever originals do the work. The music is locked in and effortlessly tight, while never sacrificing feel and vibe.

Like some of the best Chicago Blues, the quick 11 tracks on Blood Red Moon prioritize feeling and lyrics over long jamming or extended musicality. Playing with strong locked in grooves tunes like brawling opener “You Made Your Own Bed” and rough and tumble “At the Wolf’s Door” keep the vibe moving straight and strong while Dale lays down his stories with a talking style. The slinky “Cicero” pays homage to parts of Chi-town you want to avoid. The title track brings some Dr. John Gris Gris to the mix.

Stand out track “Autumn Blues” highlights Jeff Dale’s songwriting chops. This drum-less performance brings a well written lens to seasonal depression. Like contemporaries Al Basile or Tom Hambridge and inspirational legends like Willie Dixon or John Lee Hooker, Dale brings a plain spoken everyday language to deep truths about life.

Blood Red Moon was written throughout the pandemic lock down. With song titles such as “Trouble Know Where I Live,” “Push Comes to Shove,” and “Things’ll Get Worse” it is clear Dale was processing the turmoil roiling around him. It is a testament to Dale and Company’s musicality that this record is celebratory and engaging. Seemingly incapable of being a bummer, Dale has created a salve for hard times.

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