The Lucky Losers – Standin’ Pat
Vizztone Label Group – 2022
12 tracks; 50 minutes
This is the fifth album release from San Francisco’s Lucky Losers, Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz. The album is entirely original, Cathy contributing nine songs, Phil four, collaborating with Daniel Caron or Chris Burns. The duo share the vocals and recruited a strong cast of seasoned musicians to assist on the recording. Sessions were at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland studio, Kid playing guitar on all but two tracks where he shifts to organ to allow Ian Lamson to play lead; Kid also adds banjo to one cut and produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the disc – a genuine renaissance man! Chris Burns is on keys, Endre Tarczy bass and Jon Otis drums and horns are added by Terry Hanck (sax on one track), Michael Pelonquin (sax on four), Mike Rinta (trombone on three) and Brian Catania (trumpet on three).
Both Cathy and Phil sing well on a variety of songs. Opener “Pack Up The Bags” finds the protagonists ready to leave town in search of a better life, the horns adding a swagger, especially the trombone, while “Somewhere In The Middle” has a deep, funky sound with clavinet and wah guitar high up in the mix, the lyrics encouraging people not to be forced into taking sides: “somewhere in the middle of the river lies the truth”. “Rich Strike” is the tale of a rank outsider winning the Kentucky Derby and races along, propelled by Kid’s banjo and Phil’s harp and the horns really give you the desire to “Try New Orleans” as they provide that classic second-line rhythm. The final track with the three-man horn section is the slinky “Down In Memphis Town” which references MLK’s assassination and “a burned out building next to Stax” – so not a sugar-coated portrait of the Bluff City.
“You Can’t Lose With A Winning Hand” is pushed along by the piano as Cathy and Phil exchange some verbal barbs about betting habits on another foot-tapping tune. “Rust Belt Blues” may have a jaunty rhythm but that merely disguises disquiet about the demise of former industrial areas, a serious song about part of the population left behind. “High Two Pair” has a soulful vibe with warm organ, tuneful guitars and campfire harmonica before Phil asks a partner to “Finish What You Started”, a gentle tune with more relaxed harp work.
In another serious song, Cathy complains about the bad guys and lists some of those responsible for the current situation: “I could see it coming, nobody got a word to say. The world is weeping, They Wrecked My Town”. The music is a stately ballad with fine piano over a solid band performance that runs to six minutes, topped off by Ian Lamson’s emotional guitar solo.
The final cut is the title track on which Terry Hanck’s tenor sax plays a significant role over a celebratory tune, Cathy and Phil clearly content with their lot and not wanting to change anything, making a joyful end to an album that definitely has a serious side.