Hog Heaven Records
CD: 14 Songs; 55:43 Minutes
Styles: Soul Covers, Soul-Influenced Blues
What makes musicians Qualified! to play blues and soul? On one level, all that’s required is basic desire: Pick up a guitar and/or some horns and let the ‘mojo’ work. That’s a great starting point, but for a fantastic finish, polish and experience performing count for a lot. That’s what southern New England’s Bob Orsi and his Mighty Soul Drivers know well, even on their debut album.
Collaborating with engineer extraordinaire Collin Tilton of Bar None Studio, they tackle fourteen soul-infused selections (including thirteen covers) with the force of a football juggernaut. It’s disappointing that the band placed their sole original song at the end of the CD. Then again, closing tunes can be just as powerful as openers, as is proven here. Overall, they nail the sounds of classic soul: a bouncy brass section, light-hearted lyrics, and harmonious vocals. Seekers of traditional blues will find little here, but that’s not an automatic disqualification.
The Mighty Soul Drivers consist of Bob Orsi on lead vocals and guitar, River City Slim on drums and vocals, guitarist/vocalist Larry Willey, bassist/vocalist Andy Karlok, John Smayda on three types of saxophones (tenor, alto, and baritone), and Steve Donovan on keyboards. Additional musicians are Justin Canzano on alto and tenor saxophones for four tracks, and Eric Bertone on piano for six songs. The three mentioned below sound the most like pure blues.
Track 02: “Henpecked Man” – Harried husbands and boyfriends are popular characters in blues ballads, and most of them complain. Not our present narrator in this Earl Randle hit: “You may call me henpecked. I don’t mind confessing. It’s all right to be henpecked if the right little hen’s doing the pecking….” The beat here is reminiscent of a clucking chicken on all instrumental fronts, from the horns to the guitar bass-line.
Track 09: “Take Time to Know Her” – Sometimes the folks who do the ‘pecking’ in a relationship are the ones who are trying to caution one of the partners in it. In this bittersweet cover of a Steve Davis song, the subject’s mother and preacher tell him to think twice about his future bride: “Take time to know her. It’s not an overnight fling. Take time to know her – please don’t rush into this thing.” Needless to say, the warning is ignored, and our narrator discovers too late that his new wife’s cheating on him. ‘Haste makes waste’ in this case.
Track 14: “It Ain’t Right” – With a dash of funk and a lot of flair, the final song is a mid-tempo masterpiece. No matter how hard some people try, “it ain’t right” that everything they do turns out wrong as far as their partner’s concerned. Several band members take turns commanding the lead, and Bob Orsi’s lead vocals are at their most crisp here.
The Mighty Soul Drivers are more than Qualified! in their genre of choice.