Review: Josh Smith – Don’t Give Up On Me

Posted on: Friday, Nov 16, 2012

Josh Smith<br /><br />
Don't Give Up On Me<br /><br />
2012<br /><br />
CrossCut Records<br /><br />
CCD 11105<br /><br />
4014924111052<br /><br />

Josh Smith – Don’t Give Up On Me

(CrossCut Records: ccd 11105)

LA-based guitarist, writer and singer Josh Smith released one of last years finest albums with his debut offering, “I’m Gonna Be Ready” . . . and it is a pleasure to report that the follow-up, “Don’t Give Up On Me”, is up to the same high standard, with 11 self-penned numbers illustrating his searing guitar work and soulful voice.

This album, while firmly rooted in a modern blues idiom, is a very soul-tinged affair, with luscious horns and strings to give it a big, sweeping sound. Apart from Smith the core band features the rhythm section of Calvin Turner (bass) and Carl Lemar Carter (drums), with keyboard duties shared by Charles Jones and Dennis Hamm.

The opening “Bad Side” is full of Josh Smith’s trademark guitar playing, and it is a soulful mid tempo number,  highlighting the horn section, collectively comprising of Steve Patrick and Mike Haynes (trumpet), Roy Agee (trombone), Mark Douthit (saxophone and flute), and Jennifer Kummer and Beth Beeson (French horn). The following “Made For Me” rides on a Motown-style hook and is a joyful romp, again firmly in soul territory.

Smith calls on the legendary Kim Wilson to lend harmonica to the funky-as-hell “I’ve Always Been” – a dream come true as he says in the cd booklet – Mr. Wilson playing on a song he (Smith) wrote. It is indeed a gem as Wilson’s harmonica, Smith’s guitar and some grooving clavinet spar with each other!

“That Ain’t Me” recalls the heydays of soul-blues giants such as Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland . . . smooth as silk, with fine performances from all involved. The pace is taken up on the horn-heavy “Letting You Go” . . . top grooves again with Smith’s wah-wah guitar and dynamic percussion from Carl Lemar Carter. The sole instrumental, “Sneaky Jo Turner”, is fired by some fluid, liquid Smith guitar fireworks, with the funk quota brought in again by the keyboards and more driving horns.

The lengthy penultimate track, “The Middle” is another highlight, never outstaying its welcome at 7:18, it’s a tale of a world-weary existence of work, kids and bills . . . again dominated by Josh Smith’s fine vocals and lovely guitar ‘chops’, including blistering soloing – with nice co-vocal from BJ Kemp, who also contributes backing vocals elsewhere.

Another winner from the fine German-based CrossCut Records label, and as ever with their releases, it comes in a lovely package and sounds just great too . . . highly recommended for all lovers of the soulful side of the modern blues.


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