Mark May Band – Deep Dark Demon
11 Tracks – 64 minutes
The latest release from veteran Mark May serves up a healthy sampling of his multiple musical influences. Now on the Gulf Coast Records label, the guitarist’s seventh album has plenty of driving rhythms underneath a swirling variety of guitar tones and textures. Originally from Ohio, May pursued his love of blues music once he relocated to Houston, releasing his first album 25 years ago. Besides touring and recording with his own band, he served a stint in Great Southern, the band backing Dickey Betts.
The cover features the guitarist in the midst of a fiery red hellfire, certainly capturing the dark nature of the title track, a slow moving shuffle that recalls Albert Collins as May’s brawny voice bemoans losing all he had worked so hard for. He consoles himself by trading biting licks with Gulf Coast co-owner Mike Zito. On “My Last Ride,” May and band-mate Billy Wells adopt a twin guitar approach that channels the Allman Brothers Band sound. The opener, “Harvey’s Dirty Slide,” shines an unrelenting spotlight on the disaster caused by the hurricane that ravaged Houston, and the effects that linger to this day. May unleashes a furious guitar interlude, running his instrument through a wah-wah pedal to accent the despair.
Other notable originals include “Rolling Me Down,” which celebrates the love of a good woman wrapped up in some fine fretwork and Barry Seelen’s rollicking piano, and “Invisible Man,” with May now down in the dumps over a woman’s complete lack of interest, making his feelings known over a funky rhythm from Darrell Lacy on bass and Geronimo Calderon on drums. The proceedings take another turn on “Back.” The song has a distinct Santana influence, a fine vocal performance from May, and a blistering guitar foray at the end, soaring over the tight groove established by Brandon Jackson on drums and Al Pagliuso on percussion.
“BBQ And Blues” rolls along as a hearty shuffle, but the lyrics about BBQ, brews, sunshine, and a woman give the song a generic feel. The mood shifts on the ballad “For Your Love,” with May’s former band member, Eric Demmer, blowing a memorable response to May’s heartfelt vocal. Shawn Allen on the Hammond B3 organ fleshes out the arrangement on “Something Good,” as May’s touching singing manages to add extra depth to the common-place lyrics. The band turns up the heat on “Sweet Music,” as the leader exhorts listeners to get up and dance, so that the music can make them feel so fine.
There is plenty to enjoy here. May and the band know how to keep things interesting, offering a heady brew mixing blues and rock in equal measures for more than an hour. With performances several notches above the usual standard for releases in this vein, Mark May and Gulf Coast Records are off to a fine start in their new partnership.