Moonshine Society – Sweet Thing
Mojo Music Group
9 tracks plus a bonus 10th track/48 minutes
Winner of the 2020 International Blues Challenge Best Self Produced CD, Moonshine Society’s Sweet Thing is a big, bold and exciting album of bombastic, rocking blues. Sponsored by the River City Blues Society of Virginia for the IBC entry, this Washington, D.C. based band is a hot commodity and I can see why this CD won the top honors in Memphis.
Schooled at Berkeley School of Music, lead singer Black Betty and two other band members made a pact to stay together and the band was born. Betty has sung with the likes of Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks and Jack Pearson of Allman Brothers fame, Susan Tedeschi of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule and Jimmy Vivino from Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Her vocals are powerful and intense. Black Betty is a vivacious and energetic bandleader.
The band is Joe Popper on guitar, Wes Lanich and Benjie Porecke share key duties, Tod Ellsworth and Christopher Brown share the bass playing, and Rodney Dunton on drums comprise he band for the first 9 tracks. The horn section on 2 through 4 are Ron Holloway on tenor sax, Vince McCool on trumpet, and Ken Wenzel on baritone sax. Backing vocalists are Billy Mayfield, and Carly Harvey. Track 10 has Buddy Speir on guitar, Eric Scott on bass, Will Rast on keys and Andy Hamburger on drums with Black Betty.
Jason Ricci is featured as a guest blowing some mean harp on the opening original track, the CD’s title track. This is straight up, Chicago blues done with intensity and grit. Betty’s vocals are powerful and up front. The band lays out a great groove and the album begins. Ricci blasts through his support and solos with beautiful bends and blows. Next is another original entitled “Shake,” a rocking and bopping cut that introduces us to the horn section and more intense guitar work. Poppen offers up a nice solo and Betty once again nails the vocals. “Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean” is an old song written for Rut Brown who first recorded this in 1952. The horns get featured throughout and we get a nice tenor solo to boot. The backing vocals and horns help carry the tune; good stuff! “Come On Home” is an original, a sultry slow blues done in a nice ballad style. The organ support here adds some nice depth and the horns are bright (including the cool sax solo). Betty belts out the lead in growing intensity and leaves us breathless by song’s end. Johnny Winter’s “Southern Road” is next. Ricci also returns as Betty gives us an intense performance and harp and guitar blaze.
“Biscuits, Bacon and the Blues” is next, a gospel sort of cut with Betty and the organ testifying to kick things off. The song transitions into a nice bouncing tempo as Betty ask for what the title offers. Poppen gives us another good solo on his guitar, too. Bill Wither’s “Use Me On Gilded Splinters” is next. Betty makes this her own with an interesting take on the song. We get a nice bass solo to savor mid song for fun. Etta Jame’s signature song “I’d Rather Go Blind is offered up next. Black Betty does what’s needed to sell this, emoting but not overdoing it. Poppen’s guitar solo begins the move of intensity picking up as Betty continues and gives it here all. The original “Deal the Devil Made” follows, a simple, straight up blues with a breathy vocal lead and subtle guitar and bass work. The bonus track is “The One That Got Away,” a blues rocker with a big guitar intro and then Betty starts out a bit softly and subtly. The song begins to build in vocal and instrumental intensity. A sweet guitar solo and then major vocal attack help close the deal here.
This is really good stuff. The blues are authentic and well done. The seven originals are decently crafted and delivered with authority and the three covers get a nice, original spin. The musicianship is always good, too. Ricci adds some nice highlights in his two cuts and the band with it’s horn section can deliver the goods in support of Betty, whose vocals are the star of the show. I think there are good things ahead for this band- they will certainly garner airplay and notice now and it is certainly well deserved. Well worth a listen!