Debut album, from the opening note to the closing phrase demonstrates Blues flows Deep in The Blood with Chris Wragg and Greg Copeland. The duo may have been separated by the Atlantic but Blues is the thread that pulled Greg from Portsmouth Virginia and Sheffield born Chris Wragg together. They found perfect harmony when they met at a blues festival in Belgium in 2015 and were united by the love of the sound of Chicago.
The album comprises eleven originals written by the pair and the solitary cover Five Long Years by Eddie Boyd. Joining the pair on the album are Greg Guy (Son of Buddy Guy) on Guitar, Shirley King (Daughter of B B King) on Vocals, Master Harmonica player Marcos Coll and Joel White on Hammond Organ who together create an album steeped in the sound of Chicago that is instantly recognisable.
Opening with Howlin’ For Your Love the guitar player hits you in your aural solar plexus and then the harp and finally the glue of Gregg’s fabulous vocals that left me Howlin’ for more of your music, please. Second track in we have Five Long Years, the guitar playing is sharp and you hear in the playing the whisper of Hendrix’s approach but Greg’s voice brings the track firmly back to Chicago and the licks resonate with the sorrow of lost love and the worker in the steel mill a great capture of this Eddie Boyd number. The tempo changes with My Home Is The Horizon this is electric blues infused with memories of the Delta. Slower more considered and we long outwards and once again Copeland’s deep warm vocals and texture and tonal complexity add to a song redolent with life and the suffering experienced.
Now we are getting to understand the innate bond between Wragg & Copeland, there is a steely connection with the guitar tone and vocal never competing but augmenting each other. Now we have a twist in the tempo with the foot-tapping dance-inducing Tears Won’t Fall, on a number that has the feel of Robert Cray in the delivery and it works. The title track has a wild guitar opening tinged with Hendrix psychedelia but this never drowns out the beat delivered by the drums that keep the shape and retains order on a track that veers away from Chicago with a stamp of Wragg’s distinctive guitar playing shaping the number.
This album never becomes repetitive. Why? Every track has its own shape and style the delivery of the lyrics changes and we now have the addition of Shirley King’s vocals on If You Ever Leave Me. The tempo slows and the blues is sharp as Shirley joins Gregg and opens up her powerful tubes. The two voices contrast and compliment as the song takes us on a journey with a guitar lead break from Chris that evokes the Blues that Shirley demands. We have a fuzzy feedback intro as I’ll Cut You Down is introduced with a one, two, and then the unexpected as Wragg delivers his full-on inner Hendrix. We are sitting up and listening now as we turn the speaker up to 10! Now a second Greg joins the party the son of the legendary Buddy Guy on Soho Shakedown. The guitar playing is on fire as Copeland urges him along. This is funked-up blues with attitude. With the occasional spoken interjection from Copeland, the music builds and the sound takes its own path full of vibrancy and energy, in what is really an instrumental track dominated by Greg Guy guitar and some juicy Hammond from Joel White. We have to agree with Copeland who closes the number with “We Like That Man…” Then some cooler jazzier tones on Why So Cold With Me with stylish Sax joining the Wragg & Copeland party.
We are heading towards the end of this stylish album and we are back firmly in the Chicago mould with My Business Ain’t Superstition. The penultimate track is hand-clapping Hammond fused with Shirley King’s vocals in a gospel powered number House of Prayer. The combination of the two voices once again add a stunning sound soaring above stylish guitar playing from Chris Wragg. Closing out the album with Trouble we are treated to an acoustic track, leaving us soothed not troubled!
As a debut album, they have set down a marker that howls with quality. With echoes of the greats flowing through the blue-blooded riffs and licks and vocal tones that warm the speakers whether it is slow blues or more up-tempo foot-tapping dancing blues. The album may not break new grounds, or have the mark of quirky interpretation of blues stretching the genre. That said it would be welcomed in any blues lovers collection and always welcomed on any playlist I am listening to.
Deep in the Blood Released on Honey Bee Blues Records
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Howlin’ For Your Love
- Five Long Years
- My Home is the Horizon
- Tears Won’t Fall
- Deep in the Blood
- If You Ever Leave Me (Feat Shirley King)
- I’ll Cut You Down
- Soho Shakedown (Feat Greg Guy)
- Why You So Cold With Me
- My Business Ain’t Superstition
- House of Prayer (Feat Shirley King)