Even If Records – 2016
13 tracks; 49 minutes
The McDowell Brothers are very young (as of this release Carlton is 16 and Peyton 13) but have already been playing for several years, notably with Fernando Jones’ Blues Kids’ Camp. Carlton plays guitar and piano, Peyton bass and they are accompanied here by several older players who are their inspiration. The opening two tracks feature the solid vocals of Brother Jacob Schultz, “Runaway Blues” being a gentle, jazzy piece with Carlton duetting with himself on rhythm and lead guitars, so it is perhaps not surprising that his keyboard additions sound a little distant. A similar issue arises on “Left Me In The Cold”, a song credited to Peyton though he does not appear on it: Carlton plays rhythm and Jamiah Rogers plays drums and lead guitar, the drums sometimes at odds with the rhythm work and the lead solo strangely detached. “Party All Night (To The Blues)” finds songwriter PJ Willis on vocals and the brothers on guitar and bass though the bass solo is added by John Falstrom and the guitar solo is by Frank Anestos. The appropriately entitled “Jam” finds the brothers with Sam Jones on drums, Carlton again overdubbed on lead and is followed by Fernando Jones’ “Brothers”, another meandering instrumental with some impressive bass work from Peyton and more overdubbed guitar from Carlton.
A Jimmy Reed section starts with the Seeds Of Reed (children and grandchildren of JR) on vocals on two of Jimmy’s tunes, “I’mma Love You” and “Close Together” backed by the brothers and Jerome Sullivan on drums. Carlton’s lead fills are good but the two tunes are plodding and the drums seem to be too loud in the mix. Another instrumental “Delta Interlude” has Fernando Jones on high-pitched harp and Carlton on organ and guitar before Kara Willis sings her lyrics to the soulful ballad “I Want To Know”, a tune penned by the brothers. “Soul Groove” has the brothers with an uncredited drummer, another instrumental that sounds fine with some nice guitar and piano (both Carlton). Both Jim Messina’s “Pathway To Glory” and Billy Preston’s “With You I’m Born Again” are played as instrumentals, the jazzy take on the latter’s gentle melody being the better fit for the brothers. The closing track “Mother” is a duet between Carlton’s lead guitar set over his keyboards and the acoustic guitar of the tune’s composer Kerry Junior.
There is little doubt that these two boys can play well and, as neither brother sings (at least for now), the predominance of instrumentals is not surprising though several are similar in style and feel. The large amount of overdubbing of Carlton allows us to appreciate his talents across keys, lead and rhythm guitar but does give a rather sterile feel to some of this music.