Live and Kickin’ It
Infiniti Group Records
This is a live record with no overdubs of a gritty, potent band. At times unpolished, and with a sound quality that isn’t always the best, this is raw live music from one of Cincinnati’s best bands. Leroy Ellington does all lead vocals and plays a honking saxophone on just two tunes supported by Max Gise and Marcos Sastre on guitar, Mike Grosser on bass, Charlie Fletcher on keys and John Parker on drums. In other words, this is one raging sextet, which is also augmented by two background vocalists (The Soul Flower Singers) and two horns (The Blowin’ Smoke Horns) on four tunes, three of which feature both units.
This is the second album on the label owned by Ellington, who made his name in the area as a major promoter of shows and events. He was handpicked by the family, to take over the existing Johnny Schott Talent & Events when Schott passed in 2012, giving him full ownership. Ellington has always professed a love for the blues and steps forward with this blues influenced set of eleven tunes, culled from a few live venues in the Cincinnati area. Ellington wrote or co-wrote the lyrics for eight of the eleven and was a co-writer for the music on most. The band also covers Delbert McClinton, John Mayer, and Dennis Walker/Robert Cray.
This is almost all high energy, pulsating blaring music made to be played loud. Ellington plays sax on the opening stomper “Heaven Don’t Want Me,” at tune written about a couple of offhand comment by co-writer Rick Baker – “Heaven Don’t Want Me and Hell Can’t Handle Me.” The longest track at over seven minutes is “Doghouse,” with Ellington again on sax. It’s a tune recorded on his last album, Sanctified, about a musician/husband who is constantly in the doghouse with his wife without always understanding why. “Until We Meet Again,” an ode to his late parents, is also from the Sanctified recording.
They deliver a smoldering, slow blues take that builds to a grandiose finale, featuring the guitarists and Fletcher’s B3, on John Mayer’s “Gravity,” a staple in the band’s live sets. The Soul Flower Singers and Blowin’ Smoke Horns infuse Delbert’s boogie “Why Me” as Ellington covers one of his idols. “Something Funky Goin’ On’ begins with the Creedence Clearwater Revival guitar riff to “Born on the Bayou” but morphs into a credible NOLA groove. The band also tackles one of Robert Cray’s best tunes, “The Forecast Calls For Pain,” bolstered by the two-piece horn section but not delivering the searing emotion of Cray’s original. (probably no version can do that).
The Cray cover is sandwiched between two high voltage tunes that feature the singers and horns –“I Wanna Tickle Your Fancy” and the autobiographical closer, “Baptized in a Bedpan,” about Ellington’s first few months in serious sickness as an infant. The album just keeps building in momentum until it reaches explosive levels in the latter part. Clearly they left it all on the stage.
- Jim Hynes