Billy Price in a Dog Eat Dog in the world of Blues

The new and prolific record label that is helmed by Mike Zito, Gulf Coast Records, has added another established, accomplished and yet not that well-known artist (over here anyway) to their roster. Billy Price is very much of the soulful end of the blues rather than the more blues centric styles we normally associate with Mike. Regardless, the singer’s latest release, Dog Eat Dog, is a strong twelve-track debut on the label. Billy has appeared on around seventeen albums and recorded with Roy Buchanan, the Keystone Rhythm Band as well as solo releases and recognition from the US Blues Music Awards.

This latest release sees him collaborating again with the talented musician and producer Christopffer ‘Kid’ Andersen on eight originals and four covers, backed by a formidable array of musicians to give him the canvas on which to paint.

It opens (on my copy at least) with All Night Long Café, and immediately you appreciate the tonality and passion that Billy has been known for throughout his long career. At first, it is so oriental in feel that it’s a surprise when it turns into a funky, R’n’B laced, powerful song filled out with the horns and almost sensual wah’d guitar, plus an excellent solo from Mr Zito. (Any song that rhymes “kissed her’ with ‘ barista’ is fine by me!) The title track, Dog Eat Dog, is more my kind of blues as the swamp is almost palpable with Cajun overtones spicing it up and some quality harp is thrown in: add in the soulful phrasing of Billy and this is my favourite by far. Lose My Number is a laid back soulful song lightened by some lovely keyboard work and the simple guitar phrasing. More Than I Needed is next and has, to me, an irritating synth occasionally interjecting where the piano and organ are good enough to not need this…but then I ‘ve never been a big fan of those devices. It is still a strong soul song with the vocals and piano in particular worth putting up with the synth.

My Love Will Never Die starts wonderfully with a bluesy guitar jangle and horns before the barred and tremolo’d chords bring a great backing to a stunning vocal line. It’s fair to say that Billy does Otis proud on this cover and the band is on top form too. Remnants moves into mild funk with lovely subtle wah and piano and a fabulous bass line that is worth listening out for. Lyrically, it could be an object lesson in deceit and is rather cleverly done: throughout there are tasty guitar phrases buried away but then a phased guitar solo of ingenuity makes this one to return to. Same Old Heartaches is fairly well known and receives due deference but still has the ‘Billy stamp’ that makes it unique. More well crafted guitar, keys and horns give space for Billy to vent in an appropriate way but with a touch too much vibrato for my taste. Toxicity is a piece of class that combines guitar, bass and keys in a funky song that is catchy and quickly irresistible in a sort of ‘Soul Train’ way and has a brilliant and cleverly shambolic electric piano solo. Walk Back In is pure soul with the keys saving it for me as I prefer more blues in the soul…still magnificent musicianship though. We’re In Love from Bobby Byrd receives an intuitive and imaginative interpretation with great bass and has a catchiness that will gather you in and up.

Working On Your chain Gang is back to funky R’n’B with soul never far away…the fun lyrics and a quality guitar solo from Kid makes this a good ‘un. Final track, You Gotta Leave, is R’n’B with great guitar and keys that make it a perfect way to end the album…or not if the CD running order is that different! Still, it is a well-written and crafted piece of soulful blues.

In summary then, whilst it veers too far to the soul side for me, it is chock full of exceptional performance from Billy and the musicians that obviously love to work with him and have helped provide a very strong and adept set of songs. So if you like your blues with a large helping of soul, then it’s guaranteed that you will love this.

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. Working On Your Chain Gang (Price/Britton)
  2. Lose My Number (Price/Britton)
  3. We’re In Love (Bobby Byrd)
  4. Dog Eat Dog (Rick Estrin)
  5. My Love Will Never Die (Otis Rush)
  6. All Night Long Café (Price/ Jim Britton)
  7. Walk Back In (Britton)
  8. Toxicity (Price/Britton)
  9. Remnants (Price/Chapellier)
  10. Same Old Heartaches (Melvin and Mervin Steals)
  11. More Than I Needed (Price/Fred Chapellier)
  12. You Gotta Leave (Price/Bill Troiani)

Musicians:

Billy Price: vocals

Kid Andersen: guitars

Alex Petterson: drums

Jerry Jemmot: bass

Jim Pugh: keyboards

Eric Apaulding: tenor sax

Jack Sanford: baritone sax

John Halbieb: trumpet

Vicki Randle: backing vocals, congas

Lisa Leuschner: backing vocals

Charlie Owen: backing vocals

Sons of the Soul Revivers Gospel Group: backing vocals

Rick Estrin: Harmonica

Mike Zito: guitar

Produced by Kid Andersen at Greaseland Studios, San Jose.

(The iTunes run on track this time was Billy Sheehan doing a rather good cover of the Peter Green classic Oh Well (with congas!) from a tribute album called The Peter Green Songbook.)

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