Jeff Dale and The South Woodlawners – Good Music | Album Review

jeffdalecdJeff Dale And The South Woodlawners – Good Music

Pro Sho Bidness

12 songs – 40 minutes

Some blues players have back stories could have come straight from Central Casting. Jeff Dale is one of them. He was born and raised on the south side of Chicago and was taught how to play blues guitar by two itinerant blues musicians from the west side when he was 13 years old. He wrote his first blues song at 14 and as a musician he has backed up greats such as Lowell Fulson, Pee Wee Crayton and Etta James, amongst others. He released two albums of original songs in the 1980s, then promptly disappeared.

Thankfully, he resurfaced 20 years later with a new band, the South Woodlawners, and released Blues From The Southside Of My Soul. This was followed in 2011 by the release of Blues Room and now Good Music.

The album title comes from someone asking Dale to describe the blues he writes and plays. The only response he could come up with was Louis Armstrong’s famous observation in an interview with Edward R Murrow: “There’s only two kinds of music: good and bad. I play the good kind.” And it’s a pretty accurate summation of the music on this release, which contains a fine cross-section of generally upbeat modern electric blues tracks.

Dale sings and plays guitar. He also wrote all 12 songs himself as well as producing the album, which was recorded in Chicago and Los Angeles. He has some top drawer talent backing him, including Mark Mack and Tim Austin on drums, Derek Phillips on keys, Jeff Stone, Glen Doll and Chef Denis Depoitre on harmonica, Orlando Wright, Andrew “Big Perm” McCottry and Andre Howard on bass, Charlie Love on guitar and Jim Jedeiken on sax. He is also not afraid to use instruments not commonly heard on modern electric blues records. Dane Little adds melancholy cello to the sombre “Final Destination”, perfectly complementing Dale as he sings: “I didn’t know how much this ticket would really cost me. She made me an offer that I could not refuse. When the train got to that bridge, it crossed me and I knew my final destination was the blues”.

And on “Murder”, a mid-paced shuffle, Dale adds a clever twist to his lyrics: “It’s murder the way she kisses me, murder how she hold me tight. If I wake up dead in the morning, it’s ‘cause she been murdering me all night”. The solo is taken by Marilyn Schram’s oboe, however, which adds a haunting undertone to the track.

Dale’s lyrics often display a healthy level of humour. On “She Love Me” (perhaps the first blues song about texting?), he laments that “My baby sent me a text, she had no clothes on. At first I was so excited, but then I saw she wasn’t home.” The self-explanatory “My Brain Took The Whole Night Off” and “Naked Woman In My Bed” recount hilarious mis-adventures with the opposite sex. He is equally at home with serious social issues, however, such as the funky “Letter From The Birmingham Jail”, which acknowledges the debt we all owe to Martin Luther King Jr.

Good Music does what it says on the tin. This is modern, upbeat electric blues, with a large dose of rock together with some funk. Worth checking out.

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