Sean Chambers – The Rock House Sessions |Album Review

seanchambercd2Sean Chambers – The Rock House Sessions

Blue Beat Records 2013

11 tracks; 48 minutes

Sean Chambers first came to prominence beyond his Florida base when he played second guitar for Hubert Sumlin in the 90’s. Since then he has produced a regular flow of CDs, the last of which, “Live From The Long Island Warehouse” (2011) was well received. For his latest CD Sean travelled to Nashville to record at Kevin McKendree’s Rock House studios though Kevin does not appear on the album where all keyboards are handled by Reese Wynans who also produced. In a way this album could be dubbed ‘a tale of three producers’ as the current ‘producer of the moment’, Tom Hambridge, plays drums on the session. Randy McDonald on bass is the other member of the core band with an array of additional musicians appearing on individual tracks: Rob McNelley and Bob Britt add rhythm guitar to four tracks each, Etta Britt sings on three and a horn section of Jim Hoke (sax) and Steve Herman (trumpet) play on three; harmonica player TJ Klay contributes to five.

The material is a mix of originals and covers. Songs covered include tunes by Rick Vito, Gary Moore and Alvin Lee and the oft-covered “Come To Poppa” (Mitchell/Randle). Sean wrote three tracks, two in collaboration with Reese Wynans; Tom Hambridge contributes two songs written in collaboration with Richard Fleming, Russel Smith and Gary Nicholson who also gets a credit for the reprise of “Healing Ground”, first done by Jimmy Thackery on his album of the same title in 2005 which is an interesting place to start.

Sean’s gruff voice fits “Healing Ground” well, being close to Thackery’s on this song. Indeed, the core riff of the song is present and correct, Rob McNelly playing in tandem with Sean. Sean’s guitar style is definitely at the louder end of the rock blues spectrum and the significant difference between this and Thackery’s versions is some sonic coloring from Sean which fits with TJ Klay’s keening harp fills but adds little to the song. A better fit is Alvin Lee’s “Choo Choo Mama” which closes the album on a rocking note though the raucous harmonica was not to my personal taste.
Sean’s own songs are the hard-riffing “Your Love Is My Disease”, the horn-driven “It Hurts To See You Go” and the gentle “Meant To Be”. The last two are both excellent and show a rather different side to Sean’s playing. “Meant To Be” has a country edge and Sean’s playing is more restrained with Reese’s organ providing a warm blanket beneath Sean’s vocal and guitar. “It Hurts To See You Go” is one of the strongest tracks as the ghost of Albert King hovers over the playing and the horns play a significant role in that achievement. Gary Moore’s “Holding On” is another ballad with horns but finds Sean’s voice struggling a little. The cover of “Come To Poppa” has lots of wah-wah and did not work very well compared with many other versions of this classic song.

Most of the remaining tracks are relentlessly upbeat blues-rock. Rick Vito’s “World On Fire” opens the album with Sean supplying some meandering sonic screams and the harp following suit. “Since I’ve Been Down” is credited to Harry Dial and Granville Watson about whom I could find no information though Harry Dial was a noted jazz drummer around the Second World War. If this is a song by that HD he will be spinning in his grave as Sean and Bob Britt tear it up around a riff that is driven hard by the drums, organ and guitars. Tom Hambridge’s pair of songs both feature TJ’s harp (which does nothing for this reviewer): “Just For The Thrill” has a loping central riff which works fine and “Money In A Minute” is an aggressive piece with some tough guitar playing from both Rob on rhythm and Sean on lead guitar.

This CD will probably be very well received by Sean’s fans and will undoubtedly enhance his reputation. There are some excellent moments here and some playing that will divide opinion but blues-rock fans should enjoy this album.

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