Bake It Black Records – 2017
14 tracks; 59 minutes
Paul Dougherty is an expat American living and working in Munich, Germany where he has recorded eight previous CDs released on the Bake It Black label. On this album, a tribute to Hank Williams, Paul produced, recorded and played everything you hear.
Taking many of Hank Williams’ best-known songs and putting an individual spin on them is a daunting task at the best of times and Paul is brave to take on the challenge. He sings the often familiar words in a Dylan-like voice, almost spoken at times, and the instrumentation has plenty of keyboard work, patches of slide guitar, occasional horns and drums (both possibly synth?); one suspects that Paul is predominantly a keyboard player as there is quite an emphasis on piano and organ. However, the drums are not always well done and it would be interesting to know if they are programmed or not. In any case there are times when the ‘muddy’ drum sound gets in the way of the song, as for example on “Weary Blues From Waiting” and “I’m A Long Gone Daddy” – a pity in the latter case as the horn arrangement here pushes the song along well but the drums do not follow. Some of the piano leads are very good as on the version of “Move It On Over” but the organ sometimes veers into that territory which British readers would recognise as ‘Reginald Dixon’ style (the man who played the organ at Blackpool Tower for the afternoon audiences of elderly people, for non-British readers) – a very far cry from George Thorogood’s version.
Is there any blues here? Well, not a lot, though “Leave Me Alone With The Blues” introduces some harp and slide and the horn-driven “Rockin’ Chair Money” are blues-orientated selections amongst the more uptempo tracks. Two other tracks worth noting are the closing “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome”, recorded with distorted vocals (possibly an attempt to sound like vintage technology) with piano and some very distant-sounding trumpet accompaniment and “I Saw The Light”, a gospel piece with Paul using a very deep voice over churchy organ.
This reviewer is not very familiar with Hank Williams’ music so it is hard to comment on how devoted Hank fans will react to this recording. In terms of blues this is a limited palette and not a disc to which this reviewer will return to.