Saturday, April 5, 2014

Scott Ramminger – Advice from a Father to a Son Album Review


This CD review was originally published in the May 16, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Scott Ramminger – Advice from a Father to a Son

Arbor Lane Music

10 tracks / 48:12

The culture and vibe of Washington D.C. and New Orleans are worlds apart, but Scott Ramminger thrives in both environments as a vocalist and master of the saxophone. This point is proven by his new album, Advice From a Father to a Son, which was recorded in both cities with a little help from Nashville.

Scott spent his youth in Hunstville, Alabama but has since transplanted to the nation’s capital. No matter where he lives, he seems to carry New Orleans in his soul, and his jazz / blues sound has a decidedly Louisiana bent to it. Crawstickers, his first album (and a fantastic title) is very well regarded so I had high expectations for this follow-up effort. I did not come away disappointed.

Advice From a Father to a Son is an ambitious work, with ten original tracks written by Ramminger and not a Muddy Waters cover in sight. Though it was recorded in two cities with different personnel, the set list is organized so it is easy to follow (even for me). The first seven tracks were recorded in NOLA with a core band of Shane Theriot on guitar, George Porter Jr. on bass, Johnny Vidacovich on drums and the marvelous David Torkanowsky on keys. The last three tracks were cut in D.C. with Barry Hart on drums, Jay Turner on bass, Dave Chappell (no, not that one) on guitar and Tommy Lepson on the organ. Pitching in with lovely vocals on many of the tracks are Nashville’s McCrary sisters, Regina, Ann and Alfreda. These talented women tie the two parts of the album together and serve to give it more of a sense of continuity.

His New Orleans band is the most that anyone could hope to play with. Torkanowsky is possibly the best piano man in the Crescent City, and the other three men are just as talented. They slide effortlessly through multiple genres, including blues, rock and roll, funk, and even a little Latin flair. They start Advice From a Father to a Son with “I Really Love Your Smile,” an ode to Ramminger’s wife, Claire. The piano intro sets the listener up for a good time right out of the gate. Vidacovich has mastered the art of playing the drums without overplaying, and he and Turner are right in the pocket the whole time. The home-spun lyrics are playful and the rhymes are clever, making the whole song come together.

From this rousing bar room romp they change directions with Theriot’s funky and syncopated guitar action in “Funkier Than Him.” This is also the first chance to hear the McCrary sisters, who are a treasure of American music. They sang with Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, you know…

On “This Town’s Seen the Last of Me,” Nashville’s Etta Britt sings a fun rock duet with Scott, and he plays a pretty mean sax too. This is a fabulous party tune, for sure. Britt also sings with him on the title track, and “Advice From a Father to a Son” turns about to be more playful than the title implies. It certainly is full of helpful hints, which any of us would do well to heed. “Don’t be that grumpy guy in your workplace, who always seems to wear a frown.” Indeed.

The standout tracks from Ramminger’s New Orleans sessions are “The Other Man’s Shoes” with a heavy dose of Regina McCrary’s dead sexy voice, and “I’ve Got a Funny Feeling.” The lyrics are the stars here: whether showing empathy for one’s fellow man or that sinking feeling that your partner is stepping out on you, they really hit close to the heart. His growly New Orleans voice fits well with these musically simpler ballads, too.

The Washington D.C. sessions end up with a different sound, which is not a surprise as it has a different backing band. It is a tough act to follow the New Orleans dream team, but these guys do a good job. These three tracks each have a unique sound, starting with “More Than One Flavor,” which has a more urban sound and features Vince McCool on the trumpet. His horn mixes nicely with Ramminger’s sax, and Lepson does a fine job on the organ.

His keys also lend “Must be True” a cool gospel feel, though the lyrics are certainly more temporal than eternal. And the album ends with “Sometime You Race the Devil,” a bit of reggae-infused blues. McCool comes back for this one, joined by Jim McFalls on the trombone and this song ends up being a really fun way to finish things up.

Advice From a Father to a Son is very good, and it is evident that Scott Ramminger has been putting in a lot of quality time at the studio. I respect that he did not feel the need to dominate his songs with saxophone, but instead added bits of it here and there as needed. I am curious to see where he goes next, and if we are going to get more of a Washington D.C.-influenced album, or if he will stick closer to his Louisiana roots. Either way, it will surely be something good!


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