Big Dez Latest Album catches the Last Train

It is always a pleasure to receive new music from bands that Bluesdoodles has championed in the past…here is one such band that Liz so ably reviewed when Big Dez were the Sunday headliners at Blues On The Farm 2014. Liz said then, “Big Dez is full of blues energy that sparks between him and the band… Plying their trade around Paris they have developed a style that is an open door in which they have welcomed funk, jazz and soul combined with lyrics that are full of wistfulness, regret and yearning a perfect cocktail that is Big Dez and French electric blues swizzled and stirred with Texan style and Chicago Ice they deliver self penned numbers that have licks and chords that makes the mouth water”. That means they have quite a standard to keep up…so have they done it on their latest album, Last Train? In the words of Diamond Dave, “well let’s roll up onto the sidewalk and take a look”.

Although there have been personnel changes in the intervening years, their music remains powerful, bluesy and still has those elements of funk, jazz and soul…all mixed together and steered by Phil as he presents twelve original songs with plenty of variation and depth. Incidentally, I am guessing that the band name derives from the last syllable of Phil’s surname, with the prefix perhaps referring to his height…or not, as the case may be! To the music: it all kicks of with ‘Bout You, a really well structured piece of funky blues that benefits from Luck Peterson’s B3 blended with the rarely heard clavinet all wrapped around a simple yet effective guitar phrase. Vocally, Phil sounds fresh from Philly with a soulful touch to his varied approaches…but it is when he plays the guitar solo that you really pay attention…his attack is subtle and yet each sparsely played note stings…it is a short solo before we are treated to a Hammond section of invention and power. Back To Little Street suits the vocals perfectly as we enter the world of soul and R’n’B but in an inventive way. The snare rim playing sets the tone and a simple chord pattern brings us to the horns and backing vocals that place this in Stax land. It’s a quality song, if a little un-bluesy for me, although the guitar solo is another example of Phil’s unerring sense of atmosphere.  In The Meanwhile sets my compass right with a mid-paced slice of R’n’B infused blues…the backing vocals work well on this one and the guitar is expressive behind the verses and the solo is fabulous…it traverses the neck and the strings and there isn’t an unnecessary note in it. Title Track, Last Train, starts fast as a train in a very SRV sort of way, but with horns occasionally adding neat punctuation and the electric piano sounding great behind it all. The vocals could have been a guest spot by a young Tom Jones! The phased guitar solo detracts a little at first as it parries with the horns, then phase off and a stunning solo ensues…too short Phil! By Yourself is next and takes us into blues-rock light territory with a simple quiet Quo opening. The whole thing is a fun romp through some standard patterns but in an original way…the piano pieces are genius and another very clever guitar solo takes the quality up a few notches. That’s The Way You Can Change is pure funk and a real toe-tapper as Phil (Tom Jones) Fernandez pushes out a neat piece of soulful funk…the organ solo is seemingly out of place on a track like this but it is excellent and makes this so much better. The next track is called The Felione…that could mean Phil is a fan of virtual pets, a furniture store or, more likely, it means something beyond my linguistic abilities…”the Felione is a free lion of the stree”…no, me neither. Regardless it is a funk based but blues heavy song with Prince or Stevie Salas like guitar playing as backing and SRV on lead. This is another song of the kind I would dismiss if it were not for the excellent rhythm section, keys and that guitar solo…instead, I find myself thoroughly enjoying its complexity. You Know What I Mean is a blues R’n’B with vocals over a great drum and bass line before we get some lovely harmonica behind it all and then a quality solo too. Until The Broad Daylight brings us back into a slice of blues-rock with a bit of barrelhouse thrown in…it does go off kilter a bit with phased vocals and a synthy sound in the middle, but the brilliant electric piano is worth listening to throughout. We Gonna Make It is a simple song with bite and, even though the instrumentation is relatively sparse, the guitars are effective and the sax adds to the atmosphere. Any Way You Want To Swing it is the penultimate track and delivers, not swing, but rapid-fire shuffles and delicious slide guitar…and the solo is restraint personified, but so effective and we get a neat harp solo to round the song off too. Closing song, Memphis, is my favourite with its SRV patterns and great piano…it just gets you involved and the piano and guitar solos are simply brilliant the way they weave the melodies around improvised runs.

Now we can answer the question posed at the beginning…yes, Big Dez is still a force to be reckoned with and these original songs may not be totally new sounding but they are fresh and there is plenty to salve the needs of soulful and funky blues aficionados. OK, for me being a picky (pun intended) lover of blues guitar, there were missed opportunities but, as only one song exceeds four minutes, I am perhaps expecting too much. This is still a damn good album that will be welcome any time it crops up on my iPod.

Ninepawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track Listing:
  1. Bout You
  2. Back To Little Street
  3. In The Meanwhile
  4. Last Train
  5. By Yourself
  6. That’s The Way You Can Change
  7. The Felione
  8. You Know What I Mean
  9. Until Broad Daylight
  10. We Gonna Make It
  11. Anyway You Want To Swing It
  12. Memphis


Musicians:

Phil Fernandez: guitar, vocals

Lamine Guerfi: bass

Rodolphe Dumont: guitar

Steve Belmont: drums

Léa Worms: keyboards

Marc Schaeller: harmonica



Guests:

Lucky Peterson: Hammond B3

Gordon Beadle: tenor sax

Phillipe Almosnino: 12 string guitar on In The Meanwhile

Bertrand Luzignant: trombone

Benjamin Belloir: trumpet

Lee Houllier and Lena Wood: backing vocals



Produced by Phil Fernandez and Philippe Almosnino

Recorded in Paris, mixed and mastered in Austin, Texas.

Tour Dates April 2019

11 April The Stables,Wavendon, Milton Keynes

12 April The Limelight Theatre, Aylesbury, Bucks

15 April The George, Lower Brailes nr Banbury, Oxon

16 April The Wrotham Arms, Broadstairs, Kent

Big Dez  Latest Album catches the Last Train

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