I can’t help it, every time I listen to or read her name I am compelled to sing “rat-ta-tat-ta-tat”…forgive me Michele, I am but a product of my eccentric mind!
Anyway, in case you have missed this talented vocalist and songwriter, Seattle born Michele D’Amour began playing piano and songwriting at the tender age of six and singing in the church choir. Her father’s record collection was a diverse and essential part of her musical development. After performing with a number of local bands, in 2012 she formed a band to embrace the blues, jazz, funk and rock she had come to love. Michele D’Amour and the Love Dealers was born and have now released their fifth album featuring seven originals and one cover and, as it was recorded at the famed Royal Studios in Memphis, it’s called, rather appropriately, Heart of Memphis. Their last couple of albums are also reviewed here on Bluesdoodles.
It opens with the very Latin flavours of Another Sleepless Night with the guitar evoking Santana with its glorious tone and picking throughout and then a magnificent solo…plus you get horns and Michele at her understated best singing in a lower register and adding a spoken word section as she wonders “if that man will ever come home”. A neat shift of pace and genre as we get a blues riff that may seem familiar (like a very laid back Free) but the keys add depth and the vocals are suitably dirty for the part of the scorned woman portrayed…the guitar solo is laid back also but has a range and variations that make this a very powerful song. It steps up another grade with an intelligent Hammond solo too…an instant favourite. Another shift as we get Come On Over served as rhumba styled song with subtle guitar and sultry vocal, plus neat piano and a trumpet solo that works well even if it’s not normally my favourite instrument. I’m on my way, Michele! Cradle To The Hearse is my kind of title and here it is delivered on a soulful base with horns, keys and funky guitar. It is a bit of a paradox as the heavy guitar riff and fuzzed solo is almost conflicted by the descending horns and then a sax solo of quality that makes it all work. No Time is a fast funk story of the pace of life in this modern world…alot of truths are shared over the strummed guitar and then we get a bass solo that is both surprising and very welcome.
The title track, Heart Of Memphis, is all about the band’s recent trip to the famous Beale Street and its many music venues all over a slow blues/jazz hybrid that can only be apt with a slow-burning sax solo summing it up. Next up is an instrumental that celebrates the diversity of music that Memphis is home to…it was written by King Curtis with the lyrics providing a recipe for making music as he introduced each instrument. Michele speaks the words on Memphis Soul Stew (pronounced ‘Stoo’ apparently!) and then lets the band provide the voices as each member is given free rein to interpret the original in their own way. Sax, guitar, electric piano, bass and drums all get their moment and supply a thoroughly entertaining mix of skill and styles. It closes out with the gospel blues of Strange Angels. This is, for me, a bit of anti-climax… don’t get me wrong, it is a well thought out song with lovely bass and piano but it just feels a bit leaden after what has gone before…but that might just be me.
All in all, this is a very good album with many highlights…the guitar in particular for me. Michele and the band have put together another string blues-infused mix of styles that works well and supplies songs to suit every mood or if you need a lift there is plenty to help there too…a smile will always greet the Memphis Soul Stew.
(The iTunes run on track when I didn’t press stop in time supplied the clever blues of Mick Abrahams and Blodwyn Pig with the slide driven The River’s Invitation from a compilation album I discovered a few years ago called Wine, Women and Whisky.)
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Another Sleepless Night
- Dirty Pool
- Come On Over
- Cradle To The Hearse
- No Time
- Heart Of Memphis
- Memphis Soul Stew
- Strange Angels
Michele D’Amour: vocals
Dave Delzotto: drums
Patrick McDanel: bass, trombone
Jeff Cornell: guitar
Brian Olendorf: keyboards
Noel Barnes: saxophone
Greg Lyons: trumpet
Recorded atRoyal Studios, Memphis and produced by Lawrence ‘Boo’ Mitchell.