Reddog and Friends – Booze, Blues and Southern Grooves | Album Review

Reddog and Friends – Booze, Blues and Southern Grooves

Survival South Records

11 songs – 49 minutes

Once one of the favorite performers in Underground Atlanta, Reddog is a honey-voiced vocalist and stylish guitarist who delivers a treat with his latest album, teaming with some of the biggest names from the Muscle Shoals music scene to deliver a tasty, relaxed mix of Southern soul, blues, rock and roots.

Influenced by Albert Collins, Freddie King, Duane Allman and Otis Rush, Reddog – aka JK Higgins — held court on Monday nights at Blues Harbor during the ‘70s and ‘80s, fronting an ensemble that regularly included musicians who recorded with Capricorn Records and were major players in the Macon and Hotlanta music scenes.

He’s been releasing albums since his self-titled debut CD in 1986 and has based out of Pensacola, Fla., for the past 25 years or so, where he represented the Blues Society of Western Florida in the 2010 International Blues Challenge and from which he’s regularly toured the Southeast. And Guitar World magazine once included him in as one of its “50 Bluesmen That Matter.”

This CD came about after Reddog received an invitation from the late Alabama Music Hall of Famer Johnny Sandlin – who mixed or produced the Allman Brothers’ Eat a Peach, Brothers and Sisters and Win, Lose or Draw albums — to record at his Duck Tape Studio in Decatur and handle the engineering. Sandlin passed away with three tunes in the can, but Reddog didn’t have to go far. The rest of this disc was captured 45 miles away at East Avalon Recorders in Muscle Shoals under the supervision Charles Holloman and John Gifford III.

Reddog’s backing unit includes world-class session players Clayton Ivey on keys and David Hood on bass, both of whom have been hitmakers since the ‘60s. Bill Stewart (Gregg Allman, Bonnie Bramlett) and Justin Holder (Albert Cummings, Lisa Mills) handle percussion, and backing vocals are provided by Carla Russell (Clarence Carter, Gregg Allman), Mary Mason and former Nashville Star – the country version of American Idol — winner Angela Hacker.

A simple six-string intro opens “Love, You’ve Got to Spread the Word.” It’s an unhurried, unforced shuffle driven forward by a tasty hook as it stresses the importance of adoring and protecting your children. The action heats up slightly for “The Blues Will Get You Everytime” powered by a driving rhythm before the guitar-driven ballad “Down, Down, Down” continues Reddog’s descent.

The mood brightens, the beat gets funky and Reddog plays slide for “She’s a Georgia Peach” before things slow down again with “Simple Song,” a sweet ballad described as “lullaby for my lady.” Built on the vocal hook of the title, “Searching for Some Soul” kicks off with a little slide then shifts into a medium-fast shuffle as Reddog goes hunting for some blues and honkytonk piano across Alabama.

The band downshifts again and the backup singers are featured in “Why Oh Why Are You Calling Me,” which describes an ex-lover who’s blowing up his phone and looking for support after her ten-year marriage has gone belly-up. But the mood brightens dramatically from the opening notes of “Don’t Muscle That Shuffle,” a beefy, rock-steady instrumental on which Reddog shines. It flows into the well-modulated, stop-time pleaser “Old School Blues,” an autobiographical number than lists several giants of the genre and delivers some tasty licks, too. Two more cuts – the Southern rocker “Back in the Bottle Again” and unhurried “Honest Man,” which conveys a little knowledge about life handed down by the singer’s mother – bring the album to a successful close.

If you’re a fan of original, blue-eyed soul with straightforward, easy-to-understand messages, you’ll love this one.

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