12 songs – 53 minutes
The recent surge of releases by near-octagenarian, Travis Haddix, continues unabated. 2015 and 2016 have seen the release of Haddix’s own Love Coupons and It’s My Turn Now – The Best Of, as well as Didi Franklin’s Fool For You and Charles Wilson’s Sweet & Sour Blues – for both of which Haddix wrote the songs, played guitar and produced the record.
Mellow Moonchild is a slightly curious release, given that last year’s It’s My Turn Now was a “Best Of”, with one track culled from 12 different albums, together with two from Winners Never Quit and four new recordings. Haddix has adopted a similar approach on this album, with four new songs, two each extracted from Dance To The Blues and What I Know Right Now, and one each from Wrong Side Out, Big Ole Good-Un, Blues From Staghorn St,and Sure Thing.
The four new songs were all recorded on one day in February 2016 and feature the talents of Haddix on vocals and guitar; Ed Lemmers on bass; Gil Zachary on keys; Jeremy Sullivan on drums and Don Williams on organ. Horns were supplied by Norman Tischler on alto sax and Scott Tenney on trumpet. Opening with the bouncing shuffle and swinging horns of “50-50 Relationship”, it is immediately obvious that age is not withering Haddix’s songwriting talents or guitar skills. And he pays tribute to one of his great musical influences on the second new song, the slow blues of “Mr Riley B. King”. Interestingly, apart from the pick-up phrase at the beginning of the song, Haddix’s steers away from King’s licks during his solo – presumably deliberately, since it is clear from “Everything Is Everything” that he can channel B.B. with the best of them. “If You Know Better”, a tribute to Deacon Turner, is classic Haddix, with funky guitar and punchy horns sitting within a soul-blues structure and the slow blues of “Dog Biscuits” contains typically left-field Haddix lyrics: “I like my coffee real hot. I like my women big and fat. Nothing but a dog loves a bone, and most of the time he buries that.”
The re-issued tracks tend to highlight Haddix’s soul-ballad side, such as “Penny For Your Thoughts”, “Through With Love”, “Wasting Tears” and “Big Difference”, although it is refreshing to be reminded of the lyrical wit and irresistible funk groove of “Bad To Worse” in which Haddix laments: “I’ve had this kind of bad luck ever since I was kid. They said, ‘when you grown up, your luck is bound to change’. You know what? They were right and mine should did. My luck went from bad to worse.”
Given Haddix’s prolific song-writing output, it is difficult to gauge what he gains by re-releasing tracks that in some cases date back 20 years. Long-standing fans are forced to re-purchase tracks they already own in order to own the new songs. And, while new fans may enjoy hearing some of the older recordings, they all fit within the same basket of funky, horn-driven modern blues and soul, with sharp lyrics, which begs the question as to why Haddix didn’t simply record an album of new songs.
Overall however Mellow Moonchild is an enjoyable collection of tracks that serves to emphasize again just what an underrated talent Haddix is.