To consider that we’re reviewing an album with a tune called “Somebody’s Got to Take Them Panties Off” seems a bit crazy, at least for this writer. Yet, it tells you this band, HeavyDrunk, doesn’t take itself too seriously which is usually a good thing. Better yet, the soulful grooves, fun, and sizzling energy of this nine piece soul blues band often hit the mark. Rob Robinson, the front man is the primary writer and vocalist and he’s backed by drums, bass, keyboards, two guitars, two horns and a pair of background singers. The tunes are all originals excepting the Stones’ “Slave” and “Midnight in Harlem,” written by Derek Trucks and Mike Mattison. Some of these players have impressive resumes, having worked with Prince and/or ‘Keb ‘Mo’. Trombonist Roy Agee is one of Nashville’s most sought after session players and pianist James Hooker is notable for supporting Nanci Griffith. One of the background vocalists, Renee Armand, wrote with Michael Jackson and Hoyt Axton. You’ll hear her distinctive gospel voice coming through.
The album kicks off the fiery cautionary tale of “If I love You Hard Enough.” Here again we have attention-getting risqué imagery which could turn one of for which Robinson sys in the liner notes “of course, I’ve never grabbed a woman by the hair of her hear and I’ve never hurt a woman.” Apology aside, the tune has some strong horn parts and an angry, aggressive guitar solo. “Walking to the Mission in the Rain” brings a funky groove and Tower of Power-like horns. This mood changes dramatically for the title track where Robinson pays homage to his late grandmother with a mellow, piano-driven tune more n the vein of Randy Newman or Leon Russell.
“I Can’t Be Satisfied” (not the Muddy Waters tune of the same name) has a cool story about girl who took her food truck she called Hippie Chick to various campgrounds. She had chickens living on the truck so when Robinson sings “don’t scorch those scrambling eggs” it’s another example of the band’s penchant for serving up humor, complete with squawking chickens as the tune fades out. Driven by horns and prominent B3, it’s one of the standout tracks. “Keeping Up with the Kid” has blaring horns, swirling B3, and raging guitar while “High on Love” is more in a ballad mode. ”Memphis” has the requisite soul grove with Robinson singing in a falsetto a la Al Green with great band and vocal support with some of the groves evoking CCR’s “Proud Mary.” It could be the best indicator of how soulful this band gets.
The Barry White -like “Somebody’s Got to Take Those Panties Off” is a devilish, direct take on seduction while “Pick You Up Along the Way” takes us back to those psychedelic songs of past eras with images of a walrus and a dancing bear as guitars wail and soar. “Slave” is a Stones” cover to which Robinson added an additional verse. “Midnight in Harlem” is the longest track closing in at over seven minutes. It’s a faithfully executed cover that proves to be a vehicle for dueling southern rock guitars. They close tenderly with “Shine On” which reflects on lost love but holds out hope at the same time. Most of us have had those moments thinking back on a lost love several years later, only hoping the other one is doing well.
Again, some of the song titles and lyrics may cause some hesitation but there’s some excellent musical moments within. Also, as mentioned previously, it’s always refreshing to see a band that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Take for example the derivation of their band name that originated for a quip from the oft cantankerous Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown – “man, he’s a no-playin’ so-and-so….and a heavy drunk!” he sneered. Naturally, these guys can play.
- Jim Hynes