Review: Chad Strentz – Shake-Down

Posted on: Monday, Aug 4, 2014


Chad Strentz – Shake-Down

(TreeHouse44: TH44CD0301)

I think it is safe and true to say I’ve been looking forward to this release for a good while now, and I’m pleased to say that “Shake-Down”, the solo debut from the excellent singer and guitarist and long-time member of Paul Lamb & The King Snakes, is pretty exceptional! The whole album was recorded live at Mike Thorne’s Rimshot Studios over just three days in February, 2012, with a quite exceptional group of musicians helping out, and supplementing Chad’s super voice and guitar.

When you see a cast-list like this, you know the music is going to be top-notch: Jim Leverton (bass), Jimmy Ritter and Kai Strauss (electric guitars), Christian Rannenberg (piano), Raphael Wressnig (Hammond C-3), Pete Pritchard (double bass), and Mike Thorne (drums), with a guest appearance from Danny Kyle on guitar – a super British and European band for sure!

Three of Chad Strentz’s main heroes and influences would be Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles . . . and fear not, the three are all represented here in one way or another! The generous 15-tracks on “Shake-Down” include a good number of fine originals and some tasty hand-picked covers. Things kick-off in fine style with the joyous, uptempo and soulful title cut – underpinned by the great Austrian keyboard man Raphael Wressnig on Hammond C-3, the stabbing guitars of Messrs. Strauss and Reiter, and trademark vocal from Chad. The boogie piano of Christian Rannenberg starts off the rollicking “Gone For Good”, with more guitar ‘fireworks’ from the German pair of Kai Strauss and Jimmy Reiter, and it’s driven by the rock steady rhythm section of Jim Leverton and Mike Thorne.

Another original comes up next, the rockabilly-flavoured “Cardboard City”, which goes out to the homeless who sleep on the streets, and again some standout piano from Rannenberg; the cap is firmly doffed to the late, great Johnny Cash on the stripped-down and sparse “So Much Time”, just featuring Chad’s heartfelt vocal and acoustic guitar . . . it’s quite lovely. The pace is taken up on the very funk “Beg, Borrow And Steal”, which rides on a terrific groove – again all on board drive it along with all cylinders blazing, from the keyboards, guitars and rhythm section, and the main man’s voice of course!

The blues shuffle of “Don’t Get Me Wrong” is another gem, with superb work from Pete Pritchard on the stand-up bass, with Mike Thorne’s drums, and it includes also terrific guitar and piano solos. The Ray Charles classic, “Hard Times”, is covered in fine style – he was another hero of Chad and needless to say it is a flawless version here. The very old Johnny Cash song, “Hey Porter” is twanged-up and fairly rattles along, and it is followed by a tune from the same era, Cowboy Jack Clements “It’ll Be Me”, with Christian Rannenberg very firmly in the spotlight; making up a trio of covers is a stripped-down “Tracks Of My Tears”, with just an aching vocal and superb acoustic guitar from Danny Kyle.

Elsewhere, the original “Street Shuffle” is a song about the ‘ladies of the night’ – and as the title suggests it is a driving blues shuffle, that gives more spotlight to Raphael Wressnig  and the guitar duo. This fantastic release ends with tribute to ‘The King’, Elvis Presley of course – as Chad and band close things with a beautiful “Always On My Mind”. . . well it doesn’t quite close things . . . let the CD run on for another treat!

To sum up, one of the best things I’ve heard this year and well worth the wait . . . well done Chad!


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