Before the Devil Steals Your Soul
This is one mega project. Aside from the two principals, Alicia Aragon and Eric Leiberman. There are 15 supporting musicians, three recording sites, two engineers, two mixers, and two producers. This duo/band, Blue Largo, make their comeback with a strong statement, covering a few genres and important artists along with their ten originals. There are covers of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”, Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted”, Nat Adderley’s “Work Song”, and a mambo guitar instrumental that pays tribute to the great Cuban guitarist, Manuel Galban.
Co-produced by Eric Lieberman and Nathan James, Before the Devil Steals Your Soul features the nine-piece “Original Vintage R&B” band featuring Leiberman (guitar/baritone guitar/bgv/co-bandleader), Alicia Aragon (vocals/co-bandleader), Taryn “T-Bird” Donath (piano), Rafael Salmon (Hammond organ), Marcus P. Bashore (drums), Mike “Sandlewood” Jones (Fender bass), and Dave Castel De Oro, Jonny Viau, and Eddie Croft (saxophones) were joined in the studio by Nena Anderson Cote & Missy Andersen (bgv), Nathan James (bgv/guitar/baritone guitar/tambourine), Mike Tempo (percussion) and Marty Dodson (drums/tambourine).
Blues fans will recognize several of those names from the southern California blues scene where Lieberman was a fixture with The Paladins, The James Harman Band, Hollywood Fats, Kid Ramos and Junior Watson in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. In 1999 he and Aragon formed Blue Largo.; releasing two albums between 2000 -2002. In November 2006, Eric developed a neurological condition known as Focal Dystonia, which caused him to lose coordination in his right hand. He could barely play in time and couldn’t hold onto a pick at all. But playing guitar is such a passion for Lieberman that he wouldn’t allow himself to stop. So he kept the band going, playing mostly small local gigs, while doing everything possible to overcome his Focal Dystonia, including learning to read Braille and taking formal piano lessons. And while he’s still not one hundred percent free of his dystonia, he’s about ninety five percent back to normal, and still spends five hours a day working towards getting back to a hundred percent.
So, on this, their third album, they’ve blended their foundation of 1940s / ‘50s era blues band with original songs and R&B covers. These songs address the current political and social in “Wash Away” and “Same Race,” the loss of a loved one to terminal illness in “The Long Goodbye,” and the need to live our lives to the fullest, in the title track, “Before The Devil Steals Your Soul.” “If I Can Make It To Augusta” is a tribute to all the musicians who have been out there paying their dues on the road for decades, and who now wish to settle down to a more serene, peaceful life at home. “Monrovia” is the first song Lieberman has written as a fictional story — the theme being betrayal, infidelity, jealousy and ultimately murder. For its musical ambience, Lieberman was channeling a Quentin Tarantino or Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western soundtrack. And “I’m Alive” addresses the incredible inspirational healing power of music itself!
Lieberman now calls the band a “blues band in the loosest sense.” Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue with good ears. They are a band that’s long shied away from popular blues covers, finding a way to cover one of the biggest all-time Motown hits, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.” Alicia has a special fondness for Nina Simone (who doesn’t?) so “Feeling Good” and “Work Song” were included. The latter, though, is interpreted more in the style of its composer, Nat Adderley.
In the album jacket they offer some stories behind the songs. Here’s the excerpt from “Work Song.” “While many blues fans may know this song from Paul Butterfield’s cover of it, I was inspired to record it as tribute to Nat and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. Nat Adderley is the composer of Work Song and he originally recorded it on his Riverside album of the same title in 1960. Nina Simone also recorded it that same year, with lyrics about someone who’s sentenced to five years on a chain gang for robbing a grocery store, because he was poor and hungry.”
These fourteen tracks offer a nice mix with the familiar covers adding just the right touch.