Thursday, October 6, 2016

Smoky Greenwell – South Louisiana Blues | Album Review

Smoky Greenwell – South Louisiana Blues

Self Release

12 tracks / 51:00

Smoky Greenwell has certainly earned the distinction of being a fixture of the New Orleans Blues scene, and in his career he has played with War, Johnny Neel of the Allman Brothers, Warren Haynes, and many more, as well as fronting his own band. He has not been shy about recording his own work either, with eleven CDs in his catalog, with his the most recent releases being last year’s amazing Live at the Old U.S. Mint and his solid new release, South Louisiana Blues.

For South Louisiana Blues, Greenwell has collaborated with some of the best musicians that the Crescent City has to offer, including co-producer, songwriting collaborator and guitarist Jack Kolb, bassist David Hyde, and Doug Belote on the skins. Guest artists include none other than keyboard master Johnny Neel, Joe Krown (also on the keys), drummers Willie Pankar and Pete Bradish, and back-up singers Lynn Drury and Dana Abbott. Smoky brings the lead vocals, his harp and a tenor saxophone to the mix for this project.

This disc was cut by David Stocker at NOLAs Audiophile Recording Studios, and it includes a dozen tracks, with five songs that were written by Smoky and/or Jack. Many of the other tunes were written by folks with connections to the Deep South, which is where the album title came from. First up in the band’s set is an original boogie, “Animal Angels” with a cool 1960s groove and sinister vocals plus plenty of sweet harp from Greenwell. You can tell he has been playing the harp for four decades! This is followed up by a swamp rockish rendition of Wilbert Harrison’s classic “Let’s Work Together” with Johnny Neel behind the piano, heavily processed guitar from Kolb, and lovely backing vocals from Drury and Abbott.

Smoky must be a fan of Cornelius Greene, a native of the Sportsman’s Paradise who you may know better as Lonesome Sundown. There are three songs from this master of swamp music: “Lonesome Lonely Blues,” “I Had a Dream Last Night,” and “I’m Glad She’s Mine.” The latter is a slick bit of rhythm and blues with Smoky’s mellow vocals and sweet saxophone, a tight guitar solo from Kolb, along with the added bonus of thumping drums from Pete Bradish and a consistent 12-bar blues riff from Neel and Hyde. This is one of the standout tracks from the disc, in my opinion – it has it all! Other interesting covers include countrified versions of Wilie Dixon’s “Two Headed Woman” and Bob Dylan’s “Dirt Road Blues.”

There is also a passel of neat instrumentals to choose from, including Cal Valentine and Wally Cox’s “Boogie Twist,” featuring cool B3 from Neel, the funky “Pick It Up,” and Jack Kolb’s “The Hunch,” which has (not surprisingly) all kinds of cool guitar stuff going on and a raunchy harmonica solo from Greenwell. The last of these is the closer, “Walking with Mr. Lee” which allows Smoky to cut loose one last time on his sax to the accompaniment of clanking beer bottles and the reverie of bar patrons.

South Louisiana Blues is a really cool release from Smoky Greenwell and his friends, and it has a lot going for it. For starters, there are the pure talent and decades of experience that make Smoky the real deal, his band mates are all consummate professionals with great chemistry, and the disc is very well produce and recorded. It has a warm and full sound, and the material is enjoyable to listen to time and again. Check it out for yourself and make sure you head over to Smoky’s website to check out his calendar; it would be awesome to catch one of his Monday night blues jams the next time you are in New Orleans!

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