Dudley Taft seeks the Simple Life on latest Album

You have to love a guy who calls his first band Space Antelope; Cincinnati based guitarist Dudley Taft did just that and had the skill to develop from those humble, high school beginnings to form Sweet Water and then Second Coming before going solo and embracing the blues. He’s also contributed to numerous film and TV projects including the classic Sixth Sense and has released five solo albums (all of which are worth checking out, although I favour 2015’s Skin And Bones) and now regales us with an album called Simple Life which I’ll let him explain: “I’m enjoying the Simple Life. My wife and I raised four kids. They’ve all left the house now. So, we’ve got an empty nest and are just travelling around. We set ourselves up to enjoy life. The songs are about being in love. It’s real. It’s natural. It’s me. It’s probably my most honest record. I freed myself from all of those self-imposed structures and allowed the music to happen.” That is a good a basis as any to anchor a twelve-song set including a single cover by the illustrious Warren Haynes. His love and devotion is further illustrated, as his wife is the lady in the window on the cover art.

Opening with the aptly titled Give Me A Song, after a brilliant Cozy strength drum intro he lays down the sort of riff that is reminiscent of the heavy pop-rock of bands like Sweet (on their b-sides and albums) but with a bluesier edge. The vocal melody has a phased verse that works well and leads into a sing-a-long chorus that is infectious. The guitar solo follows a chugging bridge and is well worth waiting for as it uses sensible bends and runs to reflect the ethos of the song. The title track, Simple Life, has a message I espouse at every opportunity…living without a smartphone surgically attached to your face means you miss out on what life is truly about. Behind the message is a great riff that is blues-rock of the highest order. The guitar explorations between verses build expectation for the solo, which with its hammers and runs tells me that I would sooner be listening to this than plugged into Twatter! I Can’t Live Without You is even bluesier and has some glorious twinned track guitars that, with the solid bass and drums, is my favourite for now at least; especially as the guitar solos/duets are majestic in their subtlety and preserve the melodies with some neat runs that show dexterity as well as imagination. In Your Way is more rock than blues, which is no criticism…in fact it shows Taft can occupy both camps with equal expertise and the solo is suitably rocked up too for its brief existence. Don’t Let Them Get Away brings a tiny touch of funk to the blues heavy riff before the verse lightens a little and the guitar shimmers between lines and leaves me waiting and wanting for the solo…ah, well can’t have everything and it is still a damn good song. Acoustic guitar features on Death By Bliss; although Taft still manages to keep it heavy blues with the hard strikes that allow the strings to truly vibrate. Electric also features to expand the sound and melodies and has some perfectly timed and executed bends; the solo is picked carefully, works a treat and ends much too soon. Bombs Away is funky and heavy in the blues style of Hendrix and SRV, although the quieter backing to the verses leans a little toward a more modern grungier sound. The Haynes cover is next although Joey B’s version is the better known…If Heartaches Were Nickels is taken slower and the pedalled chord work gives a sheen behind the powerful vocals. This is genuine, modern blues and Taft pays due deference to the original while still making it his own. The solo is also up there with Warren and JB’s as Taft plays sparsely but makes everyone count as he drenches them in emotion that is a total fit with the lyrics. Never Fade changes the tone slightly with a hint of its Gospel heritage apparent. It is still a blues-rock song with weight between acoustic backed verses and a solo that again utilises a few carefully chosen and picked notes to reflect the tone before a couple of dazzling runs as it ends. Pouring Down is rock again with a riff that is made more powerful by some lovely runs. The quiet bridge heralds another tasteful solo that is driven through his pedal board and has ‘class’ written all over it. Shine may be a paean to his delightful lady, but it is still a funky rock song that has more of his brilliant runs after each line and a solo that builds nicely as it moves up the neck and a bonus of a clever solo playing the song out. Final track, Back To You, is more blues-tinged rock with a backing riff that needs to be listened to in isolation as the nuances he fits in could be missed if you don’t listen carefully and then there is another quality solo to enjoy too.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album all the way through and you will too if you like your blues on the rock side. There is enough variation and inventiveness to prevent needless comparisons and Taft’s playing more than satisfies the guitar geek in me and this is an album I will be returning too many times in the future.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. Give Me A Song
  2. Simple Life
  3. I Can’t Live Without You
  4. In Your Way
  5. Don’t Let Them Get Away
  6. Death By Bliss
  7. Bombs Away
  8. If Heartaches Were Nickels
  9. Never Fade
  10. Pouring Down
  11. Shine
  12. Back To You


Musicians:

Dudley Taft: guitar, vocals

Walfredo Reyes Jr: drums

Chris Ellison: drums

Mike Tpanga: drums

John Kessler: bass

Kasey Williams: bass

Dudley Taft seeks the Simple Life on latest Album

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