Linsey Alexander – Come Back Baby | Album Review

linseyalexandercdLinsey Alexander – Come Back Baby

Delmark – 2014

13 tracks; 65 minutes 

Chicago veteran Linsey Alexander received a big boost to his career with his first Delmark CD “Been There Done That” in 2012.  Two years later Linsey follows up with a further impressive selection that demonstrates what audiences in clubs like Kingston Mines, Rosa’s and Legends have been saying for years – the ‘Hoochie Man’ has the lot: a good guitar player with lots of stage presence, a solid vocalist and a strong songwriter. On this baker’s dozen of tracks we get everything from classic slow blues, through shuffles and soul-inflected rockers to almost disco-funk.  Linsey wrote eleven of the songs and there are two covers.

The band is Linsey on vocals and guitar, Breezy Rodio on second guitar, Roosevelt Purifoy on keys, Greg McDaniel on bass and Pookie Styx on drums.  Billy Branch adds harp to three tracks and a horn section of Bill McFarland on trombone, Chris Neal on sax and Ryan Nyther on trumpet appear on most tracks to good effect.

The opening four cuts tell you a lot about Linsey’s varied approach.  A cover of the witty “Little Bit Of Soap” (Frank & Mary Lopez) makes for a sprightly opener, the horns pushing the rhythm along as Roosevelt’s piano and Breezy’s rhythm guitar allow Linsey to add some nice flourishes on guitar.  The pounding rocker “Booze And Blues” explains how Linsey copes with difficulties in his life: “Bought me some booze, got my guitar and played some blues; when I do that I ain’t got no bad news”. Roosevelt’s organ solo is the instrumental centrepiece here but Linsey’s guitar takes centre stage for the lengthy slow blues “I Got A Woman” which has no link to the Ray Charles classic.

Breezy Rodio gets a credit on the sleevenotes for his role in the musical arrangements and is rewarded with the solo on title track “Come Back Baby”, a great piece of soul-blues, the horns and the rhythm section producing some Memphis sounds right in Delmark’s Riverside Studio, Chicago!  Breezy’s solo is a beautifully crafted piece of cool playing on one of the definite highlights of the album.

Billy Branch’s harp opens “Call My Wife”, a shuffle in which Linsey tells us of being so drunk that he cannot find either house or car keys!  He’s been drinking all day, is starving hungry but has also lost his false teeth!  A far more serious side of Linsey’s writing is “Things Done Changed” in which he tells us of how it used to be for a black man – eating out the back of a restaurant, having to travel at the back of the bus, using separate restrooms, etc.  Musically this song works superbly with the  band in great form, the bubbling bass and twinkling piano providing interest and the horns playing a key support role, Linsey taking a short but nicely formed solo.

“Can’t Drink, Can’t Sleep, Can’t Eat” recounts how Linsey feels after his woman walked out, a mid-paced blues with Billy Branch’s solo the standout instrumental feature.  “Booty Call” shows us the humorous side of Linsey’s writing as his guitar finds a Santana-esque tone over a fast-paced rhythm track with Roosevelt’s bubbling clavinet and the rhythm guitar reminding us of the disco era, the horns fitting in with that style too.  Not very PC, but great fun and irresistibly catchy!

Linsey gets serious again on “Too Old To Be A New Fool”, another slow blues.  Linsey has the prospect of a new relationship but warns the girl that he is too experienced to fall for her wiles: “If you want a new fool you better go get yourself one of those low pant young dudes”.  Billy Branch again contributes some fine harp to this track, his final appearance on the album, before Linsey shows us both sides of his playing with one restrained and one wild solo, Roosevelt underpinning everything brilliantly on piano.  Linsey’s tale of a big freeze, “Snowing In Chicago”, is another standout driven by Pooky’s drums and cymbal work, the horns brilliant throughout, Roosevelt’s piano solo startlingly good and Linsey’s guitar powering through the rhythm in spectacular style.

Willie Dixon’s classic “I Can’t Quit You Baby” has been much covered, not least by Led Zeppelin; Linsey steers a middle path between the heavy metal Zep approach and more traditional versions. Linsey then returns to funky rhythms with “Funky Feeling”, the horns following his vocals at every turn and sax player Chris Neal getting the chance of a solo which he grasps with both hands.  The closing shuffle “Goin’ Out Walkin’” perhaps offers a clue to how the seventy year-old Linsey maintains his energy levels and enthusiasm as he tells us how he is heading out walking – all the way to Texas in verse one, Memphis in verse two, New Orleans in verse three, San Antone in verse four – no wonder he is so fit!  More great piano from Roosevelt sees us out, wishing this was not the last track.

A terrific CD with lots of different aspects of Linsey’s talent on display, but above all this is a band record with all the players making a significant contribution.  Recommended.

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