The Forrest McDonald Band featuring Andrew Black – Blues In A Bucket
World Talent Records – 2020
11 tracks; 51 minutes
Forrest McDonald is an experienced guitar player and this is his fifteenth album release. Originally from New England, Forrest worked in California for some years but relocated to Atlanta back in the 90’s. This latest album was recorded in Georgia using the current line-up of his band: Forrest is on guitar and adds vocals to two tracks, Atlanta-based Andrew Black is an impressive lead vocalist and Becky Wright also sings one two tracks, Lee Gammon is on bass (Jon Schwenke replaces him on one track), John McKnight drums, Pix Ensign harp, Matthew Wauchope keys (Tony Carey replaces him on two tracks); Jimmy King (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Norman Franks (sax) beef up the sound and backing vocalists Shelene Huey Booker, Romney Seras, Monica Thrower and Jocelyn Ware appear on two cuts. Forrest wrote all the songs here, with assistance on three from three different writers, including former bandmates Raymond Victor and Bob Zinner.
The horns and the drums give opener “Boogie Me Till I Drop” a New Orleans feel as Andrew extols the considerable charms of his lady: “I got a big fat woman, she weighs 500 pounds; when she puts her tail in motion the walls come tumbling down”. It’s a solid start to the album, Forrest contributing an intense solo and the horns making their presence felt. “Blues In The Basement” is a slow-burner which highlights Andrew’s fine vocals and he is clearly in a depressed state, all alone with some cheap booze in the basement, Forrest playing some good stuff over lush organ and a subtle horn chart. The gently funky title track finds the protagonist setting off to go camping (though we note that he takes his guitar with him!). Forrest’s brother Steve died in 2019 and his last words were to ask Forrest to write him a song; “Blue Morning Sun” is a moving tribute and Forrest plays his heart out here as Andrew puts in an equally moving vocal performance. The bright “Go To The Light” is clearly related to Forrest’s bereavement with its positive lyrics for those who have recently passed. The song also adds a dash of soul to the album with the backing choir well to the fore.
“Hard To Lose” is a tough-sounding blues with impassioned vocals and a brooding horn chart, Forrest digging in around the theme while “Windy City Blues” is a slow blues with the piano twinkling around Andrew’s vocals describing how his relationship foundered in Chicago – will he fare better in Memphis which appears to be his next destination? Forrest plays well here in classic blues style set against the horns – a strong track. As the title suggests, “Misery And Blues” is one of those sad slow blues with dramatic horns, harp and another towering vocal. “Powerhouse” also has the harp prominent alongside Forrest’s tough guitar riff as guest vocalist Becky Wright sings dramatically about hoodoo, voodoo, hellhounds and crossroads. Andrew returns to the mike and is “Going Back To Memphis” for “Handy time”, a tune which bounds along with funky horns and exciting guitar. To close the album the band leaves us with a positive message in “Let The Love In Your Heart”. Becky and Andrew share the vocals on this funky tune which features a soulful solo from Forrest. It’s a strong finale with harp, horns and keys all playing their part.
Hats off to Forrest for an all-original album that includes blues, soul and rock. It should have broad appeal and is worth checking out.