Reese Wynans and Friends enjoy their Sweet Release

Here is an example of a musician too many people haven’t heard of…a musician who has made a significant contribution to countless recordings over the last fifty or so years…a musician who has been the indispensable back up to such luminaries as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Bonamassa, Duane Allman and many others…a musician who has played a multitude of live concerts and made the stars of those shows sound even better…a musician whose importance I commented on for his appearance on JB’s last album, Redemption, where I said “…let’s not forget the skills that Fig, Rhodes and Wynans continue to bring to Joe’s studio and live performances: they are brilliant at bringing the songs to life and contribute massively to the light and shade this album delivers”. The musician I am referring to is the keyboard genius that is Reese Wynans and, at long last, he is about to release an album of his own…granted it is listed as Reese Wynans and Friends, but that is a guide as to the esteem he is held in by his peers…after all, there aren’t many musicians who could call on the likes of Double Trouble alumni Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton, guitarists Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Doyle Bramhall II, vocalists Sam Moore and Bonnie Bramlett to name a few…mercifully (and thank you sincerely, Reese) the liner notes give us, in detail who does what on what, so as you lay back and listen, you can identify every single contributor and appreciate their input too. This album, suitably called Sweet Release, is also a milestone for Joe Bonamassa as, rather than leaving production duties to the Caveman, he has stepped up to the board as producer and, dare I say it, his less complex approach has given every song a clean, ‘live’ sound that Kevin sometimes glosses up. Liz has also done a fascinating interview with Reese where he reveals a little more about himself and the inspiration behind this fine album.

Anyway, to the music and we kick off with the great SRV track, Crossfire, and it gets a quality cover here by maintaining the glorious Hammond and the guitars are spot on for tone but different enough to make it a pleasure to listen to without trying to compare and the Wynans solo is superb as you imagine the Leslie’s whirring away behind him. Say What! Receives a similar sympathetic revision with Kenny Wayne Shepherd again showing empathy but his interpretation is fresh, inventive and simply brilliant. The Hammond is also on fire a Wynans sweeps across the keyboard like a man possessed…this is the kind of instrumental (ignoring the short ‘chorus’) you sing along to by making the guitar and keys noises…or maybe that’s just me! Next we get some soul from 1965 with That Driving Beat…here it follows the Mitchell original with its horn drenched approach and it keep the toes tapping with the fun, pacey approach. You’re Killing My Love slows the speed a bit with some soulful blues made famous by Otis Rush. This is how to take a decent original and make it epic! The Hammond and lead guitar are both so expressive and fitting…they convey the message as well as and better than the actual lyrics. I never gave the original that much credence, but this version is played regularly now. Another artist I never really got was Boz Scaggs…gifted yes, but usually not for me. However in the hands of Wynans and Bonamassa it has taken on a whole new perspective. All of the different vocalists, listed below, could have resulted in it needing a Band Aid, but they manage to carry it off. The Bramhall dynasty are responsible for The Shape I’m In, so to speak…and so the quality shines through the composition and the interpretation here is a rollicking piano over a clever bass and guitar backline. KWS does yet another sterling job with the guitar solo and punctuation and the piano solo is inspired. Back to SRV sourced material and Hard To Be has JB on a baritone guitar adding such depth to the backing: that and the piano/Hammond mix make a fairly predictable song into something a little different and more enjoyable. Riviera Paradise changes the pace and feel with an intro more akin to heavy rock  (think Rainbow) before it quietens for the keys and guitar to transport us to the seashore of the title. Thanks to the Hammond and solos from JB and KWS this pedestrian instrumental and morphs it into a gentle interlude that may not get repeated spins but it will be welcome while imbibing a cocktail of choice…or, in my case, a glass of red and a ciggy! Take The Time shifts us back to the blues as Mr Hayes does what he does best with Govt Mule and, with Reese’s keys backing the slide it is a simple delight. So Much Trouble keeps us in the blues with a more traditional structure, interpreted with his usual aplomb as JB makes this one his own and, as Reese is usually backing him up, this could have easily been on any of his recent albums. I’ve Got A Right To Be Blue is sheer brilliance as Reese is joined by Keb’ Mo’ on guitar and vocals…that’s all they need to take this classic and give it a modern but authentic edge…love it…even the faux static from the needle on vinyl! The piano, the acoustic slide and Keb’s voice make it a new classic. The next song came as a surprise to me…The Meters funk approach were never my cup of beverage…although Cissy Strut was so catchy you couldn’t help but like it. This is a new one on me however and although they make decent fist of it with electric piano, Hammond, horns and a great bass line I had to listen to it a few times before the craftsmanship jolted me into re-evaluating and I now actually like it. The final track is a measure of Reese Wynan’s ability…he has taken a song many would regard as sacrosanct, ditched the lyrics and the bass, the drums and guitars and has taken the Beatles’ Blackbird and via the Grand Piano, made into something so familiar and yet so different…his interpretation is shiver inducing and, call me radical and controversial, but this is way better than the original. It takes the melody and twists it into so many different phrases that sometimes you forget the source but it always returns to a recognisable run: it is so complex and yet so accessible…and sheer genius.

This is an album that entertains on every level and on every song…even if you didn’t particularly care for the originals, there is something new and worthwhile to be gleaned in the interpretations on here. Forget the role call of famous musicians, forget the lineage of the songs, forget genres…listen instead to a group of musicians led by a superb keyboard player pouring their hearts and souls into making some remarkable music.

TENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting/composers
  1. Crossfire – SRV
  2. Say What! – SRV
  3. That Driving Beat – Willie Mitchell
  4. You’re Killing My Love – Leslie Parrish
  5. Sweet Release – Boz Scaggs/Barry Beckett
  6. The Shape I’m In – Doyle Bramhall / Doyle Bramhall Ii / Marc Benno
  7. Hard To Be – SRV
  8. Riviera Paradise – SRV
  9. Take The Time – Les Dudek
  10. So Much Trouble – McGhee
  11. I’ve Got A Right To Be Blue – Tampa Red
  12. Soul Island – Modeliste / Neville / Nocentelli / Porter (The Meters)
  13. Blackbird – John Lennon/Paul McCartney
Special Guests and Musician Credits:

Crossfire:

Reese Wynans – Keyboards

Sam Moore- Vocals

Chris Layton- Drums

Tommy Shannon- Bass

Kenny Wayne Shepherd- Guitars

Jack Pearson – Guitar

The Texacali Horns:

Darrell Leonard- Trumpet

Joe Sublett- Saxophone



Say What!:

Reese Wynans- Keyboards

Chris Layton- Drums

Tommy Shannon- Bass

Kenny Wayne Shepherd- Guitar



That Driving Beat:

Reese Wynans- Keyboards

Greg Morrow- Drums

Michael Rhodes- Bass

Mike Farris- Lead Vocals

Paulie Cerra- Lead Vocals & Saxophone

Josh Smith- Guitar

Jack Pearson- Guitar



You’re Killing My Love:

Reese Wynans- Keyboards

Lamar Carter- Drums

Travis Carlton- Bass

Doyle Bramhall II- Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar

Josh Smith- Guitar

Lee Thornburg- Trumpet

Paulie Cerra- Saxophone & Arrangement

Mahalia Barnes- Vocals

Jade MacRae- Vocals

Juanita Tippins- Vocals



Sweet Release:

Reese Wynans- Keyboards

Greg Morrow- Drums

Michael Rhodes- Bass

Joe Bonamassa- Guitar

Josh Smith- Guitar

Mahalia Barnes- Choir

Jade MacRae- Choir

Juanita Tippins- Choir

Paulie Cerra- Horns and Arrangement

Lee Thornburg- Horns



Lead Vocals in order:

Paulie Cerra

Keb’ Mo’

Mike Farris

Jimmy Hall

Bonnie Bramlett

Vince Gill

Warren Haynes

Paulie Cerra



Shape I’m in:

Reese Wynans- Keyboards

Chris Layton- Drums

Tommy Shannon- Bass

Kenny Wayne Shepherd- Lead Guitar & Vocals

Noah Hunt- Lead Vocals

Josh Smith- Guitar

Jack Pearson- Guitar

Steve Mackie- Additional Bass



Hard To Be:

Reese Wynans- Keyboards

Bonnie Bramlett- Lead Vocals

Jimmy Hall- Lead Vocals

Greg Morrow- Drums

Michael Rhodes- Bass

Josh Smith- Guitar

Joe Bonamassa- Baritone Guitar

Jack Pearson- Guitar

Lee Thornburg- Horns

Paulie Cerra- Horns and arrangement



Riviera Paradise

Reese Wynans- Keyboards

Chris Layton- Drums

Tommy Shannon- Bass

Steve Mackie- Fretless Bass

Kenny Wayne Shepherd- Guitars, Solo 1

Joe Bonamassa- Guitars, Solo 2

Jack Pearson- Guitar

Jeff Bova Orchestrations



Take The Time:

Reese Wynans- Keyboards

Greg Morrow- Drums

Michael Rhodes- Bass

Warren Haynes Lead Guitar & Lead Vocals

Joe Bonamassa- Guitar

Mahalia Barnes- Vocals

Jade MacRae- Vocals

Juanita Tippins- Vocals



So Much Trouble

Reese Wynans- Keyboards

Greg Morrow- Drums

Michael Rhodes- Bass

Joe Bonamassa- Lead Guitar & Lead Vocals

Jack Pearson- Guitar

Mike Henderson- Harmonica



I’ve Got A Right To Be Blue

Reese Wynans- Keyboards

Keb’ Mo’- Guitar & Lead Vocals



Soul Island

Reese Wynans- Keyboards

Lamar Carter- Drums

Travis Carlton- Bass

Josh Smith- Lead Guitar

Jack Pearson- Guitar

Paulie Cerra- Saxophone



Blackbird

Reese Wynans- Grand Piano

Reese Wynans and Friends enjoy their Sweet Release

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