Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Jeff Chaz – Sounds Like the Blues to Me | Album Review

Jeff Chaz – Sounds Like the Blues to Me

JCP Records

12 tracks / 58:00

Though he was born in Louisiana, there is a bit of Memphis soul in Jeff Chaz’s sound, which is not too surprising as that is where he learned blues guitar and honed his unique vocal style. Though he kicked back and forth across the country playing trombone and trumpet he ended up sticking with the guitar, and in the mid 1990s he finally made his way home to the Sportsman’s Paradise, where he tears things on a regular basis with his high-energy live shows.

Sounds Like the Blues to Me is Jeff’s latest disc, and it is a worthy follow-up to his very good Chronicles CD. This collection of a dozen original songs features Chaz on guitars and vocals, Doug Therrien on bass, John Autin on keys, Doug Belote with most of the drums, and a horn section of A.J. Pittman and Ward Smith. All of the songs are fun, and there is any easygoing vibe to the proceedings; it must have been a blast during recording sessions at Radionic Studio in Jefferson, Louisiana!

The set kicks off with the title track, and “Sounds Like the Blues to Me” is an upbeat and funky piece of work thanks to Autin’s organ. The band is tight, with a killer backline provided by Belote and Therrien, and Chaz throws down a couple of nice solos when he is not growling out vocals that smack of infidelity. This is followed-up by “Make Love to You in the Sand” a Crescent City-inspired tune with great storytelling that brings the trumpet and sax into play, and you will hear that Pittman did a marvelous job with the horn arrangements.

After this, things slow down with the jazzy “Hitchhiking in the Rain,” in which Jeff howls and bemoans the fate of a lover who gets left behind in the dust. Allyn Robinson picks up the drumsticks on this one, and Autin switches over the piano, laying down some pretty slick barroom improvisation over Therrien’s bass. Then the band goes straight back into the thick of things with a little bit of horn-infused action and spoken word in “I Am the Blues.”

From there, the party carries on with furious abandon. There are a few tunes that should be called out, though. Jeff gives his voice a break on the instrumental “Mt. Vernon Blues,” and his guitar leads have an almost Hawaiian vibe while Therrien hammers on his bass. And there is a lot of humor to be found in the funkfest, “I’m Goin’ After Moby Dick in a Rowboat.” But above it all is the standout track, “You Look So Good to Me,” a jump blues track where the horns are just right and Chaz’s guitar work is sublime.

Before you know it, this hour-long set comes to a close with “You’re Bound to Get Us Both Hung,” a scorching electric blues song which revisits the cheatin’ theme that the album started with. This is one of the more intense tracks on the album with Jeff screaming the vocals and tearing the fretboard off of his six-string with reckless aplomb. There is nothing like ending on a high note!

Sounds like the Blues to Me is an awesome new release from Jeff Chaz, and it hints at how cool his live show must be. There is a reason he has played with heavy hitters like Albert King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Cab Calloway, after all. Hopefully he will be in Nola next month when I visit, as I will definitely have to make time to track him down!

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