Jeff Pitchell – Playin’ With My Friends | Album Review

Jeff Pitchell – Playin’ With My Friends

Deguello Records – 2023

13 tracks; 55 minutes

This is Jeff Pitchell’s ninth album release in a career that dates back to the late 90’s. However, it appears that at least some of these tracks have been released before, given the appearance of players who passed some time ago. The lengthy list of musicians is further evidence of multiple recording sessions. The full list is Jeff himself on guitar and vocals, Rick Derringer, J Geils, Duane Betts and Tyrone Vaughan guesting on guitar, Bruce Bears, Bruce Feiner, Billy Holloman, Danny Fontanella, Bob Leinbach, Jeff Levine, Tom Leyasmeyer and Reese Wynans all contribute keyboard parts; horns appear on five tracks courtesy of contributions from Charles Neville, Billy Holloman, Jimmy Biggins, Jim Hogan, Scott Aruda, Rich Lataille and Scott Heff. The rhythm section is equally diverse with Ephraim Lowell, Marty Richards, Floyd Murphy Jr, Steve Bankuti, Lynn Williams, Jason Arnold and Steve Peck on drums, Ivan Santiago on percussion and Mike Nunno, Wolf Ginandes, David Smith, John O’Boyle, Jesse Williams and Dave Natale on bass. Jeff wrote most of the material and there are three covers.

“Eye For An Eye” opens the album, a solid shuffle with clean guitar lines from Jeff, a song that impressed John Mayall sufficiently for him to cover it on his 2009 album Tough. “Prisoner Of Love” is a pounding rocker fuelled by a four-man horn section and female backing vocals, taken from 2015’s American Girl, an album produced by the late J Geils who plays slide. The first cover is Atlanta Rhythm Section’s “So Into You”, a smooth sound with Charles Neville providing silky sax accompaniment. Jeff’s jagged riff leads into a tale of the guy in thrall to a woman who seduces him through “Your Magic Eyes” before a run of three tracks with guest guitarists. Jeff shares vocals and guitar with Tyrone Vaughan (son of Jimmie, nephew of Stevie Ray) on “Out In The Cold”, a slower cut with a steady groove set by the rhythm section; “All Night Long” is full-bore rock and roll with honking sax, pounding piano and guitars that carry a touch of country courtesy of Duane Betts’s contribution, perfectly suited to this tribute to “my bride to be down in Tennessee”; Rick Derringer shares vocals and guitar on “Unsung Hero Of The Blues”, his grittier style fitting nicely alongside Jeff’s lighter voice.

Ivan Santiago’s percussion brings some latin flourishes as Jeff bemoans being stuck in jail “waiting for my baby to pay my bail”, despite being “Not Guilty”, an attractive cut on which Jeff adopts a different style to his playing. We then return to a trio format for chugging rocker “Blinded By Desire”, before the title track of Jeff’s 1997 album, “Fat Cigars” which describes the local kingpin driving through his local area, cigar in hand, both cuts having lashings of wah-wah. “I Like The Rut” is a catchy tune in retro 50’s style with Jeff playing guitar, bass and drums, Billy Holloman keys and sax, Christine Ohlman sharing vocals with Jeff. The album closes with two covers: first we get a live reprise of the Robert Cray/Dennis Walker penned title track, originally written for the BB King Blues Summit project; BB’s daughter Claudette sings in raspy style and Jeff solos in BB style, a nicely done flourish; another great of the blues scene, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, is remembered with a good cover of one of his most famous tunes, “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog”.

It was not really clear whether this is entirely a compilation of tunes from earlier albums (some certainly are) or whether some new recordings are included but there are several strong tunes and good performances from Jeff and his friends.

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