Chatterbox Records – 2017
15 tracks; 52 minutes
Guitarist Michael Barclay is based in California and has played in the past with Chuck Berry, Randy Crawford, Norton Buffalo and Dorothy Morrison amongst others. On this release Michael played much of the music, adding keys, bass, drum programming, trumpet and trombone to his main instrument. His regular band assists on a few tracks: Gordon Wilson (guitar), Tom Van Rossem (bass), Tommy Miles (drums and sax on one cut). Two other drummers are involved, Terry Baker playing on one track and Kendrick Freeman credited for drum samples on three tracks. Michael wrote most of the material, assisted by associate producer Midge Gannon on two songs, and there are five covers.
Michael is clearly a solid guitar player, whether playing a chugging boogie like “High Desert Blues” or SRV-style licks as on opener “Shakey’s Blues”. However, his vocals are less persuasive as he attacks the songs in a strangled, gruff tone which works best on a quieter track like John Mayer’s “Gravity”, less so on the rockers though on “I Need That Needle” his anguished vocal does fit the tale of tragic waste implied by the title.
Robben Ford and Michael McDonald wrote “Nothin’ To Nobody” and the slower tune again suits Michael’s voice, as he plays some excellent guitar fills very much in Robben’s style. Michael’s version of Rufus Thomas’ novelty song “Walking The Dog” adds little to the song’s extensive discography but Huey ‘Piano’ Smith’s “Roberta” bounces along well. Michael’s own tunes cover themes from love gone wrong (“You Always Remember Your First Broken Heart”) to attraction (“High Heels Again”). However, one of the problems with drum programming is that the rhythm can sound labored and there are a few examples of that here, such as the cover of King Harvest’s “Dancing In The Moonlight” (a pop hit for Toploader around the Millennium). For this reviewer the instrumental “Southbound” (on which Michael’s band are all present) is the strongest cut here with its twin guitar lead, funky rhythm and hints of Louisiana with sax added to Michael’s horns.
As always, it is good to see musicians writing their own material but, for this reviewer, this release is very much a mixed bag.