Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Album Review: Dudley Taft -- Deep Deep Blue


This CD review was originally published in the July 17, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at thebluesblast.com

Dudley Taft – Deep Deep Blue

Self release through American Blues Artist Group Records


11 tracks / 48:49

I have been waiting for a new release from Dudley Taft ever since I heard his 2010 debut solo album, Left For Dead. Though he started solo work only a few years ago, this does not mean that he is just arriving at the party. This guitar master has paid his dues for over 30 years, and this musical journey has taken him to interesting places that give him a unique sound and vision.

Dudley has lived all over the United States, growing up in the Midwest and attending prep school in Connecticut in the 1980s with none other than Trey Anastacio, who would later be in Phish. He moved on to Los Angeles to explore the hair band scene, and finally found his place after moving to Seattle in 1990. He became a fixture in the northwest, and spent twenty years there writing, recording, and performing his music with a few different bands. A few years ago he decided to form his own blues band after being inspired by Freddie “The Texas Cannonball” King, and he recently set up shop in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Deep Deep Blue is Taft’s second solo release, and its eleven tracks include eight originals and three unexpected covers. Dudley wrote the original songs and handles the guitar work and vocals. He is joined by a capable band that includes Eric Robert on keyboards, Chris Leighton, Scott Vogel and Jason Patterson on drums, Ashley Christensen on backing vocals and John Kessler on the bass. Kessler also handled the production chores. Sticking close to his roots, this album was mostly recorded in Seattle, with overdubs and guitar tracks completed in North Carolina.

Though he is inspired by classic blues artists, he does not copy what they did, but instead interprets it through a more modern blues rock context. “Meet Me in the Morning” is the opening track, and I must say that I have never heard of anyone covering this Bob Dylan song before. Thankfully he did not stick true to the original, instead turning it into a guitar-centered blues rocker with a solid riff. At its core this is a guitar album and it is refreshing that he is not aping anybody else’s tone or feel – he has spent years defining his own sound and it is to die for.

Things really get rolling after this with the fast driving original rock tune, “The Waiting.” His lyrics mirror the guitar line and it is hard not to notice the rock solid backline. The bass and drums are perfectly in sync, so it is obvious that these are first-call musicians he is working with here. By the way, his voice has a raw and weathered tone that works perfectly with this harder-edged music.

“God Forbid” is a southern rocker that showcases Taft’s deft songwriting skills, as its clever lyrics continue the story started in the title track Left for Dead. He also uses his writing skills to give a short history lesson in “Bandit Queen,” the story of Pearl hear, the stagecoach robber. I had to Google her after hearing this song to see what she was all about, and it is a fascinating story.

Lou Reed’s “Sally Can’t Dance” is another neat cover choice and it includes some nice organ work, and as a Lou Reed fan I whole-heartedly approve of Dudley’s interpretation of this classic. It is upbeat and funky, and shows that these musicians can take on any genre that they choose. The final cover is a hard rock re-do of Freddie King’s “Palace of the King.” This version has a driving beat, screaming guitar work and well-done backing vocals.

Taft can play the slow blues too, as he proves in the heartfelt “Deep Deep Blue.” Slowing him down does not lessen the tension that he is able to create with his guitar. He leaves no doubt that he is a fabulous musician and I get a Jeff Beck / Robin Trower vibe from him on this one.

“Feeling Good Now” starts with a great hook, and then surprises the listener as a tight horn section pops in to double the guitar line. There is a little bit of everything in this album, but he never strays far from the guitar and once again he lights a fire in this funky track. This is followed up by my favorite song from Deep Deep Blue: “Wishing Well.” This country rock song starts with some very pretty acoustic work and makes liberal use of the backing vocalists during the verses and chorus. I like the way this tune swells and builds with electric guitars and then tapers off to finish acoustically.

Deep Deep Blue is a fabulous effort from Dudley Taft, and it is notable that all of the tracks are solid and well-integrated with each other. It is apparent that he did not focus on writing a few hit singles, but instead worked to write a very good album. So, this is not a disc to cherry-pick tracks from, and it is better to listen to it as a whole so you can get the full experience. I really enjoyed it and look forward to hearing more from him soon!


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