Thirty-five years into his illustrious career and Jimmy Carpenter releases a new album on the Mike Zito/Guy Hale label, Gulf Coast Records. To be honest, he only came to my attention when he appeared on the Mike Zito and the Wheel recordings…but that’s my loss. Prior to that he was active with the Alka-Phonics and The Believers to name a couple. In addition to his own prowess on sax, guitar and vocals, Jimmy has pulled together some quality musicians for seven originals and three covers. Prepare for some funk and soul all wrapped in the blues we love and revel in the contributions from Mr. Zito and Nick Schnebelen (his Trampled Under Foot and solo work is worth checking out) to name but two.
Opening with the title track, we get a first taste of the quality behind this accomplished vocalist and composer. It’s a funky blues and upbeat song that has some great B3 from Red and guitar from Nick in the melodies and solos…and, of course some perfectly pitched sax from Jimmy. A move to the countrified and soulful tones of When I Met You is next with horns and keys that lay down a solid backing for Jimmy’s vocals that tell a story so well. The sax solo is what a guitar player wants…carefully crafted notes, not too many of them and no histrionics.
Another shift for Wild Streak, as we enter the roadhouse for some lovely bluesy piano and (bliss!) slide guitar that slinks across the strings and matches the atmosphere perfectly and JC even throws in a sing-a-long and damnably catchy chorus on top of another solo of pace and quality. To keep us guessing, Love It So Much takes us through Zydeco to pure New Orleans with horns, keys and guitars laying down a backing for another catchy and clever lyrical story. The horn and sax interplay on the ‘solo’ works well and the whole song has that irresistible feel that draws you in. A classic in every sense of the word is next as JC and the band take on the 1955 Little Willie John song, Need Your Love So Bad…many of us will know the later versions by the proper, Peter Green Fleetwood Mac and Gary Moore’s subsequent version. Here it is given a tasteful and ‘classic’ update: the guitars are simply beautiful the way they play the melodies and the keys add a surprising depth. OK, not better than Peter, but a very good version with the sax solo shows JC using its full range and not overblowing as so many do. Wanna Be Right has some excellent snare work; outrageous wah guitar and subtle keys all adding up to a funky workout that has horns as well as another well-paced and crafted sax solo. The star for me, however, is the keyboard excursions in the background and a tasty solo that add so much.
Rudolph Toombs wrote One Mint Julep in 1951 and I first heard it when Jimmy Smith covered it on his Hootchie Coochie Man release. It was one of the earliest drinking songs…that meant I already loved it even if it isn’t my drink of choice! JC turns it into a sax driven, funky version of the dance floor instrumental that’s lifted even higher by the keys…both as backing and then a stonking solo. Wrong Turn shifts to a Southern rock styled blues-rock that has the essential irresistible riff that the band builds on and around. The slide guitar also makes an appearance, which always floats my boat. It may be Southern-tinged but this is a unique song that has so much to listen to: the snare work is superb; the rhythm guitar similarly; the harp solo works a treat and the slide is majestic. LoFi Roulette brings another instrumental that showcases JC’s sax and the guitar skills of Tofield and Red’s keys as the intro sounds like it came off Burn…but then the sax moves into a mid-paced piece of memorable, saxy rock. Yeah Man was written by noted yet somehow often overlooked session man Eddie Hinton: This is a soulful reading of the Muscle Shoals mainstay’s song and is a neat and, relatively, laid back way to finish the album. The closing section as the sax and guitar ‘talk’ to each other is clever and needs a few listens to really ‘get’ it.
This a very strong album from start to finish and, looking at the cover art, if you were expecting a sax wig-out then you’ll be disappointed…JC is an accomplished guitarist too and, whilst there is plenty of sax to enjoy, he gives the whole band room to contribute and add to every song. Inevitably, my favourites are guitar-centric but every track has something for everybody.
NINEdoodle paws out of TEN …
Track listing and composers:
- Soul Doctor (Guy Hale/Jimmy Carpenter)
- When I Met You (Carpenter)
- Wild Streak (Carpenter)
- Love It So Much (Carpenter)
- Need Your Love So Bad (John Mertis Jr/William Edward John)
- Wanna Be Right (Carpenter)
- One Mint Julep (Rudolph Toombs)
- Wrong Turn (Hale/Carpenter)
- LoFi Roulette (Carpenter)
- Yeah Man (Eddie Hinton)
Jimmy Carpenter, lead vocals, saxophone, guitar
Cameron Tyler: drums, percussion, background vocals
Jason Langley: bass
Trevor Johnson: guitar
Chris Tofield: guitar, background vocals
Nick Schnebelen: guitar (track 1)
Mike Zito: guitar
Red Young: Hammond B3; piano; Wurlitzer piano
Carrie Stowers: background vocals
Queen Aries: background vocals
Al Ek: harmonica, background vocals
The Bender Brass: Doug Woolverton: trumpet; Mark Earley: baritone sax
Produced by: Jimmy Carpenter
Recorded at: Nonebody Studio 1, Las Vegas
(The iTunes run on track this time comes from the late Jimmy Copley and his star studded album, Slap My Hand…the track in question was a great cover of Everyday I Have the Blues.)