File next to: The Black Keys, John Lee Hooker.
Mighty Sam McClain: “Too Much Jesus (Too Little Whiskey)”
If the music on the latest album from this soul veteran was as inspired as the title of the CD, we’d have something really special here. That’s more of a comment on the title than a dig at the music, though. This is a solid effort from McClain, who is rightfully considered one of the finest soul singers going. The album starts out strong “Too Much Jesus (Too Little Whiskey)” with “Wish You Well,” a smooth and sweet tune that blends funk and soul. McClain also brings the funk on the spunky “Feel So Good — Feel So Right” and especially on “Can You Feel It?,” which employs and stop-and-start beat that would do James Brown proud. The silky uptempo tune “Real Thing” boasts the album’s hookiest melody. Unfortunately, a few songs here fall flat, and the album could have used a true rocker or two to deliver an occasional jolt to go with the smooth soul that is McClain’s go-to style. Still, in an era when seasoned soul artists are in short supply, it’s good to have another batch of music from an accomplished veteran like McClain. — Alan Sculley
File next to: Otis Redding, O.V. Wright.
Craig Chaquico: “Fire Red Moon”
The former Jefferson Starship guitarist has spent most of his solo career playing new age music. But as his move to Blind Pig Records suggests, “Fire Red Moon” is a move into blues for Chaquico, and for the most part, it’s a successful foray. While he includes instrumental versions of a pair of well-worn blues standards — “Born Under A Bad Sign” and “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” (which is the best of the two) and — Chaquico’s at his best on several original tunes. For “Lie To Me,” he drafts Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band singer Noah Hunt, who’s a good fit for this gritty track. With “Devil’s Daughter,” Chaquico goes in a more soulful direction and the song has a nice smoky vibe to it. “Bad Woman” is a slow blues workout, which leaves Chaquico plenty of room for some sleek soloing and also serves as a fine showcase for his primary vocalist Rolf Hartley. There are a couple of stumbles — “Little Red Shoes” is a derivative shuffle and the instrumental title track never takes wing. But for the most part, “Fire Red Moon” makes one wonder why Chaquico hasn’t made this sort of album sooner. — Alan Sculley