Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Lucky Losers – In Any Town | Album Review

The Lucky Losers – In Any Town

Dirty Cat Records

11 tracks / 52:43

Wow, I thought the Lucky Losers’ previous album, A Winning Hand, was really good, but their latest release In Any Town, is truly amazing stuff. The San Francisco-based duo of Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz has really delivered the goods this time! There are a few pieces to this puzzle that make the overall picture so pretty, as you will soon see.

Cathy and Phil have been fronting the Lucky Losers since 2014, but they are no strangers to the music business as they both have successful solo careers. Prior to this collaboration, Cathy released a few of her own album through Vizztone, including the stellar Black Crow which is marked by genuinely emotional vocal performances. Phil has also made his mark with his voice and harmonica, honing his craft to cover Chicago blues, as well as west coast swing, rhythm and blues, and country blues.

The rest of the Lucky Losers includes the killer line-up of Marvin Greene on guitar, Chris Burns on the keys, Tim Wager on bass, and Robi Bean behind the drum kit. And the final pieces of the puzzle are a fine collection of guest musicians (more on this later), and production, recording, mixing and mastering by the legendary Kid Anderson at his Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California. How could you go wrong with all of this good stuff going on?

Well, you cannot go wrong, it turns out – this 52 minutes of killer blues, with nine of the eleven tracks consisting of original music that was written by Cathy or Phil. One of these originals kicks of the set, and “So High” is upbeat and big blues rock. This tune starts off with some sharp harp work from Berkowitz, and it has a decidedly live sound with jangly guitars from Greene and Anderson, natural sounding drums from Bean, and of course a touch of Hammond B3 from Burns. This is all great, but there is also the magical interplay and vocal harmonies from Cathy and Phil that really puts this song over the top.

I mentioned earlier that there are a few guest artists that appear on this disc, and here are a few more details:

- The horn section of Michael Peloquin (sax), Mike Rose (trumpet), and Mike Rinta (trombone) was brought in for a few songs, the originals “Don’t Let ‘Em See Ya Cry” and “Blind Man in the Dark.” The latter features Terry Hanck with a killer tenor sax solo, and in case you are not familiar with him, this award-winning musician was formerly with Elvin Bishop’s band and is a longtime friend and collaborator with Kid Anderson.

- There is also guitar work from west coast blues legend and fellow Bay Area denizen, Franck Goldwasser, and his fleet fingers brings a lot to the uptempo “I Can’t Change Ya.” His staccato chords are almost like a third voice that complements the vocals of Cathy and Phil, and he tears off a screaming solo that fits in perfectly. This is a fun tune that has earned a place in my ever-expanding party mix.

”Give Me a Sign” features Memphis’ Jeff Jensen on his guitar, and he gives his wah pedal a righteous workout on this one. This song is a perfect example of what Anderson can do in the studio, as this slow-grinding blue rocker has perfectly recorded guitar, harp, and organ as well as amazing drum tone. Cathy’s vocals are processed to give an even spookier vibe, and the overall effect is magical. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

There is not enough space in this review to cover every song, but you probably get the picture by now. The Lucky Losers with Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz have definitely figured out how to write and present the blues, and In Any Town is proof of this. This disc is a must-buy, and if you are going to be around the Bay Area be sure to head to their website to check out their gig schedule!

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