Each of this band’s first three releases has had a specific theme. Their first one featured Jump Blues; Rhythm and Soul was a gathering of covers by lesser known American female singers from the 40s and 50s and the latter prominently featured newest member, vocalist Shakura S’Aida, a 2007 Maple Blues nominee in best female blues vocalist category. She’s also quite formidable on their current release Dirt Road Blues.
Bill King, the leader of the group, has unearthed some classics from two masters Bob Dylan (he’s never veered too far from the blues) and Eddie Hinton (the late unheralded composer/singer of soul-based material spanning three decades). Six of the 13 songs are credited to Dylan, such as "Lonesome Day Blues" and "Blowin’ In The Wind," while Hinton is heroically represented by "Poor Old Me," "Watchdog" and "Here I Am." For good measure there’s wonderful versions of Wilbur Harrison’s classic "Let’s Stick Together" and Blind Willie Johnson’s heartrending "I Can’t Keep From Cryin." Grand selections each!
You have to hand it to Bill. Songs such as these are great in their own right, but they get practically reinvented into fervent gospel-styled rave ups. With his steady hands on the keyboards, King manages to be simultaneously flamboyant and tasteful. And that’s about the best recommendation that can be accorded any musician. Bill is also a convincing soul singer, so it’s little wonder everything crackles with excitement from start to finish.
There are also 2 original tracks, both totally convincing instrumentals. "Memphis Ivory Jag" cooks with copious amounts of grease groove and the interplay between King and guitarist Neil Chapman is telepathic. "Room 113 Blues" is an intense "blues-for-a-rainy-night" gem.
This is a pulsating love train you won’t want to depart! Everything clicks on Dirt Road Blues thanks to the wealth of talent assembled, the strength of the material and King’s decision to focus on his deep Southern roots with special emphasis on New Orleans. Dirt Road Blues comes with my highest recommendation.