Review: Billy Lavender – Memphis Livin
Posted on: Thursday, Dec 31, 2009
(155 Productions LLC)
Memphis guitarist Billy Lavender received his first guitar 40 years ago and learned to play right-handed instruments left-handed and upside down, and after gigging for years in various styles has put out this fine blues album, with friend Steve Bryson of 155 Productions LLC, with “Memphis Livin’” being produced by noted guitarist Brad Webb, and also featuring local talent such as Reba Russell, Blind Mississippi Morris, Vince Johnson and Tony Adams, amongst a host of others.
Over the 14 tracks Lavender mainly lets his guitar do the talking, but only contributes a few vocals, with the rest shared by the afore-mentioned Reba Russell, Tony Adams, Vince Johnson, and also Ken Dinkins. The result is a very enjoyable modern Memphis album – lots of great blues, soul grooves and some very radio friendly tracks – with the guitars of Lavender and Webb, coupled with Russell Wheeler’s sparkling Hammond B-3 recreating some of that immortal Stax feel.
The second track “Let’s Party” is a standout, a rip-roaring blues shuffle, with Memphis blues/soul queen Reba Russell on vocals and some lusty harmonica from Blind Mississippi Morris – Brad Webb’s long-time musical partner; the pretty “Tonight” sees Lavender on all guitars, with impressive soulful vocal from Ken Dinkins. The instrumental “Just Chillin’” rides on a funky groove, not a million miles away from David Bowie’s huge hit “Fame” – this with Vince Johnson doing the harmonica honours, and featuring the tight rhythm section of Tony Adams (drums) and Mike Stoker (bass).
“Cold As Ice” is a nice mid-tempo blues with more fine harmonica from Vince Johnson, who also takes the vocal on this cut. Billy Lavender cuts loose on guitar and vocals on the roadhouse rocker “Get Along”, leading to the lovely “Blue” – again with Reba Russell on vocal, electric sitar from Brad Webb, which recalls the Steely Dan classic “Do It Again” – very nice indeed!
The ensemble rock out on “Shake It” – another uptempo blues shuffle that features Vince Johnson – with the big ballad “Bottom Line” shifting the pace again, and star-of-the-show Reba Russell on smouldering vocal – if ever a track was made for radio, this is it! The big hook on it given extra feeling by Brad Webb’s striking baritone guitar work, and Billy Lavender’s stinging lead lines.
Elsewhere, the lowdown “Bad Boy” has a funky riff from Lavender and smoky vocal from Tony Adams; the soulful “3AM” catches that classic Memphis sound, with the sparse “If I Could” almost in The Beatles territory, with just Brad Webb’s Dobro and Lavender’s vocal and guitar. The closing “Delta Time” is, unsurprisingly, a swamp blues – a fine end to a most enjoyable release.
Republished due to incorrect information in the original review.
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