|Roadhouse Memories, Gene Taylor
Blue Light Records
I'm sure we've all been there. You walk into some joint, whether it be your local pub, or some mythical juke joint or road house, and the band is just starting a set. They're warmed up and ready to rock. The songs are just flowing and chances are, the drinks are too. Everyone is having a good time, folks are dancing, laughing and singing along. For a few hours, you're in heaven. That's what this disc is like!
Gene Taylor has an amazing history in the music biz. He's played with the likes of Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, Canned Heat, The Blasters and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. He's played on many recordings, including the Juno Award winner "The Return of The Formerly Brothers", with Amos Garrett and Doug Sahm. Almost any one of these gigs would be enough to warrant a lifetime of bragging rights, but Taylor on his own what this disc is all about.
Looking at his musical saga, one might expect a typical blues record. One would be wrong. Sure, these songs are blues-based, but most rock and roll is. This release definitely has a 50s air about it... but it ain't rockabilly. It ain't nothing but a good time!
Opening with Amos Milburn's "Chicken Shack Boogie", the tone is set. Taylor's piano starts things off, joined by some deliciously dirty guitar, and things start to stomp and swing. The listener can imagine themselves transported to The Chicken Shack itself, with no windows or doors - just a hole in the wall. Taylor has taken some liberty with the lyrics, but this sort of music lends itself to interpretation, and few can personalize a song like Gene Taylor.
From there, Taylor & Co. slide into some greasy blues with "6 Weeks Old", the old Petie Wheatstraw number. If a band is going to play blues, this is how to do it! No Stevie Ray-wannabes allowed. This is it, low down and dirty and with a groove deep enough to dip your hips into... and these guys are just getting YOU warmed up! Any good band knows how to keep you moving, and Gene Taylor and this band from Finland do just that.
Carl Perkins' "Matchbox" has been covered by many, but never quite like this. Excellent boogie piano and some raw and raunchy guitar solos just tip the petrol on the fire, bar after bar. To you young rockers out there, pay attention! This is a master at work and you just might learn a thing or two about how to play!
The track list plays out like an excellent live show set. All but 2 of these 12 songs are covers. Some better known than others, like Bobby Womack's "It's All Over Now", which is given a solid, houserockin' treatment, or Fats Domino's "Walking To New Orleans" (I've waited years to hear Taylor do this song... and it was worth the wait!), some lesser known, but all are killer.
Guitarist Jussi Raulamo and Taylor share vocals on Raulamo's "Oh My Dear" and man, let me tell you, these two work well together! This is a solid rocker. It has a vintage feel but it could well be a classic. Only time will tell... but if future generations have taste, this song will be played for decades to come.
Guitar Slim's "Feeling Sad" is up next, and you'll feel like you're in New Orleans. Taylor has always excelled at numbers like this and he still plays them bayou blues with skill and feeling. The rest of the band is in top form here... which is probably why they knocked the song out in one take!
The only Taylor-penned track on here is "Moonlight Rider" and it just cooks. Taylor's piano and Robben Hagnas' bass just keep this moving on top of the drums and Raulamo's guitar fills in only where called for. This is like finding a lost gem. It's hard to believe that it's new!
Few can match Gene Taylor for skill, style and authenticity. Taylor hasn't always taken the spotlight, but since 2007, he seems to have become quite comfortable in that role. Based in Belgium these days, you Europeans should count yourselves as lucky! The master is on your estate and he's calling it home. From what I hear, he's gigging and gigging a lot over there. Not only is he a powerful piano player, he's one hell of a singer too. I first heard him sing on "Tag Along" on The Blasters Non Fiction album, and I've wondered since then why he didn't sing more! I have an old bootleg tape of The Blasters and he was singing as many songs as Phil Alvin, and I couldn't wait to hear more. I've yet to track down a copy of his 1986 "Handmade" album... but this disc more than makes up for it.
The production on this disc fits the music brilliantly. Hagnas, in his role as producer, could have gone for a slick, layered, over-produced sound, he was smart enough to keep it simple. Raw and rockin', most of the songs were done in just one or two takes (with an absolute minimum of overdubs). This is one of the best albums of this genre you're going to find. Period. 12 action packed tracks and not a dog in the bunch! If I could go see a band like this, 7 nights a week, I'd be out hitting the bars like a 20 year old again!
If you're a purist, this record is for you. If you're not, this record is still for you. Not strictly rock and roll, not strictly blues, not strictly R&B, this is just a solid, rockin' slab O wax (yes, it's available on vinyl... for a limited time). You should run right out and grab yourself a copy. Then run out and grab your favorite libations, maybe invite some friends over, and have a party. You'll probably keep this disc spinning the better part of the night. What are you waiting for? Go get it!
Reviewed by Memphis Mike, 2013
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