Chris Daniels, Hazel Miller and Dana Marsh support the community of Denver on What We Did
When Chris Daniels was in the midst of lockdown in 2020, he didn’t twiddle his thumbs…instead he twiddled his guitar. He was approached by Denver’s Inner City Health, an organisation whose mission is “to reduce the inequity of health and wellness access and delivery in underserved populations of Denver”. The guitarist with the Chris Daniels and the Kings band, he recruited the vocal talents of Hazel Miller and the keyboard skills of Dana Marsh, both of whom played together in The Collective. Add to that a star-studded backing band, some choice (and very relevant) covers and Daniels’ originals and press record as they shared their music over the online forums in order to raise money to contribute to the invaluable help the Inner City Health people provide…not forgetting the hugely entertaining experience for those who joined them at two online sessions. Now we can all share in the experience as this CD, called What We Did, is now available.
Opening with a cover of The Doobie brothers Takin’ It To The Streets from 1976, they take the Michael McDonald vocals, the Doobies’ laid back rock and, with the help of a stunning bass, Hazel and Freddi sharing vocals, it somehow has a greater depth, a greater urgency than the original. More to my taste is Born Under A Bad Sign: an Albert King essential – although I do have over a dozen versions from Cream to Bonamassa to Paul Rodgers. This one is an imaginative and original take on such a seminal song as they slow the pace and make it into a bluesy R’n’B song. Great vocals and, most importantly, the guitar solo (from Todd Mohr) is different but respectful and very good if a little short for my preference.
Cheek To Cheek is an Irving Berlin classic best known from the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film, Top Hat…not that I ever watch or listen to it, but surely everyone knows this one. Here it gets a new lease of life as a mandolin takes a significant role in making it new so that people like me can accept it and yet not upset my sister (the only person I know who actually likes that kind of film and music!) The jazz lounge feel is preserved, as is the on-screen magic between the singers (Chris and Hazel) but I listen mainly to Sam Bush (who I first heard with the master of the undervalued banjo, Mr Béla Fleck) and his beautiful solo.
I’m Still Looking is from Chris Daniels and the Kings repertoire has, after some nice acoustic, great piano work from Dana, he sets the scene for everyone else as this up to date lyrically song has a jazz feel from years gone by and a Santana-esque sound courtesy of the percussion. Could You Believe is an Al Jarreau song and a perfect choice for this enterprise…just listen to the lyrics to feel why: the first verse sets the scene…”Could you believe in a dream when I tell you that it’s true? …Courage to carry your spirit up on high.” The gospel feel isn’t out of place either as the song with piano, Hammond and nice guitar phrasing, could be a hymn for modern times.
What A Wonderful World is unmistakable and we’ve all done our own impressions of the great Louis Armstrong performing this song…no? Just me then! Acoustic guitar and piano accompany Chris and Hazel as they make it into a gentle soulful song that is recognisable but not the same…the piano solo fits perfectly. Down Home Blues is the 1982 ZZ Hill classic and is much more my normal listening fare. A lovely blues outing with swirling organ, slinky slide from Chris and Todd fighting back on his Strat. This version actually has a bit more pace and depth as the band rock behind the duetting vocals; Tom Capek’s B3 solo, followed by the slide solo and the closing barrage from Todd are real highlights and this is a track I keep returning to.
Stealin’ Candy from Chris’s band nods to the thinly veiled entendres of many a great blues song (or my mind could be misreading things.) This may be a laid back sort of country blues but it is fun too, with a neat picked solo in the middle. You’ve Got A Friend is the great heartstring tugger from Carol King and appeared on the legendary Tapestry album. It leans toward the James Taylor version but still has a freshness to it even though we know every word and instrumental phrase.
Better Days was originally on the Chris Daniels solo album of the same name from 2012: a positive message closing the worthy album with a country song of quality.
This may be the result of a fundraising effort, but there is much to enjoy as they traverse the genres and, even if some aren’t a routine choice of listening, they are all performed impeccably and certainly bring a new approach to some classics to the table.
Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen for some surprising covers executed impeccably by a quality band. Not so much of the blues but still plenty to be enjoyed as those choices were informed by the very special cause the performances were in aid of.
Track listing (original performers):
Takin’It To The Streets (Doobie Brothers)
Born Under A Bad Sign (Albert King)
Cheek To Cheek (Astaire & Rogers)
I’m Still Looking (Chris Daniels and the Kings)
Could You Believe (Al Jarreau)
What A Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)
Down Home Blues (ZZ Hill)
Stealin’ Candy (Chris Daniels and the Kings)
You’ve Got A Friend (Carol King)
Better Days (Chris Daniels)
Chris Daniels, vocals, electric and acoustic guitar
Hazel Miller, vocals
Dana Marsh, keyboards and B3
Freddi Gowdy, vocals on Born Under a Bad Sign, Takin’ It To The Streets and Down Home Blues
Victor Wooten, bass on Takin‘ It To The Streets and Cheek to Cheek
Todd Park Mohr, guitar on Born Under A Bad Sign and Down Home Blues
Sam Bush, mandolin on Cheek To Cheek
Kenny Passarelli, bass on Down Home Blues and Better Days
Christian Teele, drums and percussion
Greg Garrison, electric and standup bass
Tom Capek, keys and B3 and bass
Mark Oblinger and Linda Lawson on vocal harmonies on Takin’ It To The Streets
Produced by Chris Daniels & Kevin Clock
(iTunes took me to the fretboard wizardry of Chris Duarte who was one of many guitar legends to pay tribute to a huge guitar legend…Freeway Jam: To Beck and Back was a tribute to none other than the great, the phenomenal Jeff Beck. Chris Duarte showed his talents on Behind The Veil, originally on the Jeff beck’s Guitar Shop album.)