Roly Platt – Inside Out | Album Review

rolyplattcdRoly Platt – Inside Out

Self-Release – 2014

11 tracks; 53 minutes

Canadian harmonica player Roly Platt has played with many top-line Canadian artists including David Clayton-Thomas (Blood, Sweat & Tears), Suzie Vinnick and Ronnie Hawkins but this is his first release under his own name.  His harp takes centre stage on a baker’s dozen of tunes, five of which were written by Roly, with keyboard player and producer Lance Anderson providing one tune and contributing to two others; guitarist and singer Steve Strongman co-wrote two songs on which he sings, Roly takes the vocal mike on one of his own tunes and Jordan John sings one song but the rest of the album is made up of instrumentals from a good range of sources including Ray Charles, Hoagy Carmichael and James Taylor. The core band is Roly on harp, Lance on keys, John Tilden on guitars, Russ Boswell on bass and Al Cross on drums; Steve Strongman sings and plays guitar on the two tracks he wrote, Jordan John plays acoustic guitar and sings on one track and Neil Chapman adds guitar to three tracks.

A solid instrumental cover of The Crusaders’ “Put It Where You Want It” (written by the late Joe Sample) has Roly taking the lead part but everyone playing their part well to make a catchy opening to the album.  Roly’s “Mad River” is a great vehicle for his wide-ranging harp and also features a good exchange between guitarists John and Neil.  “Good Mind To Wander” (a co-write between Roly, Steve and Lance) shuffles along well with Steve providing a strong, clear vocal and Roly’s harp singing out loud and clear.  Lance’s funky instrumental “Congo Strut” also provides plenty of space for Roly, Lance’s electric piano solo adding a jazz feel to the tune.  An instrumental take on Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s “Over The Rainbow” is played straight with Roly’s harp the ‘voice’ of the familiar classic which is beautifully played with subtle brushwork from Al, sensitive piano from Lance and gently pulsing acoustic bass from Russ.

Roly’s “Rippin’ It Up” starts off with lonesome harp that could have been in a Western scene but rapidly morphs into a pounding rocker about having a good time on a Saturday night: “Look at Jim he’s a dancing fool, he learned to do it in Sunday School.  You may think that he’s over the hill but he can twist and grind like a pepper mill.  God knows he’s having a ball, rippin’ it up at the old church hall.”  Rocking piano and keening harp push this one along and it’s a highlight.

The longest track here is Roly and Steve’s “Ocean Of Tears”, clocking in at over eight minutes.  The band members take their time on the opening before Steve’s strong vocal recounts a classic blues tale of the river flowing just like his tears as he tells his tale of lost love.  Roly’s harp sounds genuinely sad and the slide guitar in the background is very effective set against Steve’s electric solo – a fine slow blues. Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman” follows the pattern of other covers by having Roly’s harp replace the familiar vocal part on a suitably uptempo version on which Lance’s stirring organ solo makes a notable contribution.

Equally familiar is “Georgia On My Mind” and it makes another good vehicle for Roly’s expressive harp playing.  Perhaps it is the spare quality of this version that made the intro on piano sound a little like The Eagles’ “Desperado”!  Roly and Lance’s “Funk Shui” returns to a funk-based approach before the album closes with James Taylor’s reflective “Bartender’s Blues”, Roly’s harp adding a real touch of C&W to Jordan John’s honky-tonk vocal.

Harmonica fans will find plenty to enjoy here as Roly shows that he can operate in a number of styles.  Having some vocal tracks adds variety and makes for an enjoyable debut album that has something for most listeners.

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