Omar Coleman and Westside Soul – Self-Titled
3 on the B Records
CD: 11 Songs, 39:18 Minutes
Styles: Soul, Contemporary Electric Blues, Soul-Influenced Blues, Blues Covers
“Reviews of good CD’s write themselves, because the music sells itself.” That’s what yours truly told her sister on the phone, when talking about her latest critical endeavors. When fantastic art presents itself, describing it comes as naturally as breathing. It’s when the art is mediocre, and hard to describe diplomatically, that my literary lungs get bronchitis. Fortunately, Chicago’s Omar Coleman and Westside Soul make me want to sing their praises so all of the Windy City can hear them. Their fourth, self-titled album is everything a soul blues offering should be: energetic, passionate, uplifting, and full of robust melody all around, whether on vocals or instrumentation. A minor quibble some might have is that five out of the eleven songs here are covers. One of these has been overplayed by blues and soul bands since time immemorial: “I’m Going Down [Down, Down, Down, Down, Down]” by Don Nix. Other than that, even the ones that are less familiar, like Edward Earl Randle’s “I Let a Good Girl Go,” are masterfully played. Where Coleman and Westside Soul pop, however, is on their explosive original material.
The band’s promo materials reveal: “This marks the fourth release for the band, the third [with] Omar Coleman on vocals. Guitarist Pete Galanis (Howard and the White Boys) contributes songwriting and a lyrical pen to a few songs, as well as production…Veteran blues drummer Marty Binder (Albert King, Albert Collins) [keeps] the rhythm section pumping. When not touring Europe, South America, or around the USA playing rhythm and blues festivals, [they] can be heard playing live in Chicago, in particular at Rosa’s Blues Lounge on the West Side.”
Omar Coleman stars on lead vocals that melt steel (and potential lovers’ hearts). Westside Soul features Pete Galanis on guitars; Neal O’hara on Hammond organ, Rhodes piano, and El Grando piano; Ari Seder on bass guitar, and Marty Binder on drums.
The following three songs are original and outstanding:
Track 01: “Sweet Little Woman” – Coleman and Co. pull out all the stops from the start. With a startling, staccato piano intro reminiscent of bullets or footsteps flying over pavement, this sweet little ditty tells the tale of an extramarital affair: “The door burst open, and there Ray stood. Scared for my life, oh, I ran real good. Thought I wanted that woman, but that man’s wife – ain’t worth my life.” Truer words were never spoken, and Omar’s emotion here is spot-on.
Track 03: “Let the Babies Live” – There’s a crucial reason some people call Chicago Chi-raq. Gun violence, as common as heavy snow in the winter, has got to stop. Blues and soul fans, you might not think this is a catchy tune, but even on its first repetition, you’ll be singing “Put your guns down!” along with the band. This is classic ‘70s-style soul at its best, with a pointed refrain and a powerful pro-peace message. Shredder sorcerer Pete Galanis is on fire here, with a magical solo that will make the toughest thug drop his weapon and start playing air guitar instead.
Track 06: “Rotten Old Lady” – Another problem in cities across Illinois, big and small, is the prevalence of gambling. The subject of this song is a mother “only with one thing on her mind: Put all her money in the slot machine, and leave the little kids behind.” Keenest here is Neal O’hara’s tsk-tsk’ing Hammond organ. This is the blues, folks: pure, simple and sad.
Omar Coleman and Westside Soul bring out the best of soul and blues, simultaneously!