Tony Holiday – Soul Service
8 tracks; 30 minutes
Memphis-based harmonica player Tony Holiday came to Blues Blast’s notice in 2019 with his Porch Sessions album, a semi-acoustic project in which Tony visited other musicians, notably fellow harp players, and it ended up as a nominee for the Live Album category in the Blues Blast Awards. This time around Tony has stayed home in Memphis, recording at the Dickinsons’ Zebra Ranch studio with Ori Naftaly (Southern Avenue) in the producer’s chair, alongside Landon Stone on guitar, Max Kaplan on bass/B/V’s and Danny Banks (John Nemeth) on drums; Victor Wainwright adds keys to a few tracks and Ori also adds additional guitar. The eight songs here appear to be Tony’s originals with Ori and John Nemeth mentioned as collaborators; indeed, some of the album reminds you of John in the mix of influences. Tony plays harp and handles the lead vocals capably, as producer Ori places plenty of reverb on both vocals and guitars.
“Payin’ Rent On A Broken Home” is a good Rn’B style opener with a nagging guitar riff over which Tony adds some keening harp, the sharp lyrics taking a modern slant on the age-old break-up scenario. The next track “She Knocks Me Out” shares a title with an early Anson Funderburgh song but is an original, albeit with a definite Texas feel, assisted by Victor’s great piano work and some slide accents, presumably from Ori. The album takes a turn into the country with “It’s Gonna Take Some Time” which has good harmonies on the chorus and some harp that sounds like it could fit into one of those campfire scenes in an old Western. Tony looks back at the “Good Advice” that his Grandma gave him, including some cross-references to Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover” in the lyrics sung over a rolling tune.
The CD cover shows the eight tracks divided into ‘Side A’ and ‘Side B’, the latter starting with “Checkers On The Chessboard” which has a slightly jazzy feel from the bass lines, a light guitar solo and Victor’s electric piano stylings before “The Hustle” takes us back to more of a blues/Rn’B feel. “Day Dates (Turn Into Night Dates)” opens with a gentle bass line over which harmonies are layered and the two guitars play off each other underneath Tony’s lyrics which deal with strained relationships in which “someone’s gonna get hurt”. To close the album Tony ups the pace with a pounding train song “Ol’ Number 9” which rather reminded this reviewer of John Nemeth’s “Elbows On The Wheel”. Tony blows some good harp here, as he does throughout.
As much EP as album, the title Soul Service might be considered a bit misleading as there is more Rn’B than actual soul but it is all enjoyable stuff.