Travis Haddix – Ring On Her Finger, Rope Around My Neck | Album Review

travishaddixcd2Travis Haddix – Ring On Her Finger, Rope Around My Neck

Label: Benevolent Blues

10 songs – 41 minutes

It’s always a pleasure to listen to a new album by Travis Haddix. Now 75 years old, the Walnut, MS, native has produced a number of high quality blues albums over the years and his new release is no exception. The album, Ring On Her Finger, Rope Around My Neck, features 10 new songs, all written by Haddix himself.

Haddix sings and plays lead guitar. Interestingly, the album basically features two bands backing Haddix on different songs.  Three songs were recorded in Atlanta and Forsyth, GA, with a band comprising Rick Hinkle on rhythm guitar, Steve Crawford on piano, “Big” Royal Joiner on keys, Marion McFarland and John Haamid on drums and Pondexter Evans on bass.  The horns were supplied by Jeff Hager, David Ruffin and Tony Fortunato.  The remaining songs were recorded in Brunswick, Ohio, with Brian Hager on rhythm guitar, Gil Zachary on piano, Don Williams on organ, Ed Lemmers and Lonnie Crosby on bass and Jemery Sullivan and Vernon James on drums.  The horns feature Tony Fortunato, David Ruffin and Scott Tenney. And, while Haddix produced the seven songs recorded in Ohio, Chuck Willis produced “Jodie”, “Doctor Doctor” and “Patience With A Purpose”.

Despite the number of different musicians and the two producers, there is a consistency of style and approach throughout the album, and the sensitive, impressive performances of the backing musicians reflect the strength of the song-writing. Haddix writes clever songs with intelligent lyrics, often with witty twists.  In “Full But Frustrated” he sings to his woman “We’re on the same page and the whole world knows you’re fine; But when a man gets to be my age, he don’t have much time.” And the title of “In Good Shape For The Shape I’m In” betrays the lyrical punch line of the verse: “If I don’t succeed, I’ll start all over again. I’m in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in.”

Haddix was inspired in his early years by B.B. King’s broadcasts on WDIA out of Memphis, but his guitar style shows few signs of B.B.’s direct influence. A more obvious comparison on the evidence of this album would be late-era Albert Collins. There’s a strong funk edge to many of the songs, in particular “She’s Good, She’s Better, She’s Best” (which also has a fine organ solo from Don Williams), and Haddix has a light, part-spoken singing voice, which is peculiarly effective, particularly when it conveys a sly hint of devilish humour. In addition, Haddix has a piercing guitar tone and idiosyncratic solo style with often slightly unusual note selection (which makes repeated listening to his playing rewarding). None of which is not meant to suggest that Haddix is a Collins copyist – it is more likely that he and Collins had the same or similar influences. Either way, Haddix definitely has his own style and his own sound.

There are a number of highlights to the album, which is distributed on the Benevolent Blues label. The opener, “Jodie” has a real swagger and groove, while “Patience With A Purpose” is a slow blues with a memorable guitar solo. Also particularly enjoyable is the funky blues of “Doctor Doctor”, which features a fine horn arrangement by Jeff Hager, in-the-pocket rhythm guitar from Rick Hinkle, and a powerfully emotional solo from Haddix.

This is a mature, intelligent blues album packed with clever songs and fine performances and is warmly recommended.

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