The Lucky Losers (w/ Cathy Lemons & Phil Berkowitz)
Vizztone Label Group
The Lucky Losers are a band fronted by vocalists Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz. Lemons is originally from the Dallas area where she used to run with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Anson Funderburgh. In 1987 she toured with John Lee Hooker. She relocated to San Francisco in 1997 and recorded her live debut at The Saloon club with Rusty Zinn, Tommy Castro, and David Maxwell. She didn’t record again until 2010 when she and Johnny Ace released the Vizztone Label Group’s “Lemonace” with guitarist and co-producer Kid Andersen. Lemons third solo recording was 2013’s well received “Black Crow” also co-produced by Anderson on Vizztone.
Harmonica ace and vocalist Phil Berkowitz has two albums of his own; 2005’s “Louis Blues: The Music of Louis Jordan” and 2009’s “All Night Party”. He had toured and performed with Billy Branch, Sean Carney, Duke Robillard and Danny Caron, before teaming up with Lemons. Influenced by blues, Stax-styled soul and New Orleans funk and jazz, the duo began to feed off each other and harmonize well together. In 2015 they named themselves “The Lucky Losers” and released their debut recording with co-producer/guitarist Kid Andersen, once again on Vizztone; they called the album “A Winning Hand”. The Lucky Losers proved that duet singing was no longer a lost art and followed up with 2016’s “In Any Town” and 2018’s “Blind Spot”. The blues community took to the innovative duo and in 2019 The Lucky Losers were voted The Independent Music Awards’ “Best Blues-Soul Artist”.
This much anticipated fourth studio album for The Lucky Losers is produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Andersen at his Greaseland Studios in San Jose. The band lineup chosen to accompany Lemons and Berkowitz includes seven-time Blues Music Award nominee and multi-instrumentalist producer Andersen; guitarist Ian Lamson; keyboardist Chris Burns (who has appeared on each of their recordings); bassist Endre Tarczy, and Derrick “D’Mar” Martin a 2020 BMA nominee for best drummer. Special guests include Michael Peloquin, tenor and baritone sax; and Mike Rose, trumpet.
“Godless Land” is a tour de force of blues, Jazz and Americana, often covering timely issues. Lemons has written or co-written six new songs. On “Half a Nothing” she opens with a growl before singing “half of nothing is nothing ya’all, that’s what we got”; Berkowitz comes in with his harp and joins her on the chorus. The up-tempo title track, co-written with Andersen, features a gospel styled intro and chorus as Lemons sings “sign of the time, sign of the time, we just mean and rotten, no fruit on the vine, where is your heart, where is your hand? Lost and forgotten in a godless land”; Berkowitz again punctuates the lyrics with more of his rich harmonica. “Catch Desire By The Tail” co-written by the duo, is a luscious duet; Burns is on both piano and organ before Berkowitz takes over. Lemons contributes three more songs including “My One Good Eye” with guitarist Lamson on a National, as Andersen plays background guitar and percussion. Her other originals are “Leave You On The Side of The Road”, and “The Ragged Heart”.
Three songs are co-written by Berkowitz with his writing partner Danny Caron, the former musical director for Charles Brown. Berkowitz takes the lead on “Mad Love is Good Love” as he sings “medication was the only way to kill that pain inside”, before Lemons joins him on the chorus; Burns’ piano, Andersen’s organ, Lamson’s guitar, and the fabulous rhythm section of Tarczy and D’Mar make this a total band effort. Berkowitz proves himself a great vocalist on the evocative “Can’t Keep Pretending”, and again on the moving song “The Good Fight”; the latter with the addition of horn players Peloquin and Rose.
The selected covers include “No Good Lover” written and recorded by Mickey & Sylvia in 1956, featured is Andersen on lead guitar. The Doc Pomus and Mac Rebennack authored “Be You” originally recorded as a duet by Irma Thomas and Dr. John in 2008, is a fabulous vehicle for our Lucky duo. While Lonnie Johnson’s sexy “What Makes You Act Like That”, first recorded by Johnson with Clara Smith in 1930, is another fabulous duet as Lemons sings “every time I see you, you got something else to do”, as guitarist Andersen plays some traditional jazzy blues.
The songs range from the topical to the traditional. This is the Lucky Losers at their very best. Since their inception vocalist Lemons has been consistently fine, their anchor. On “Godless Land” vocalist Berkowitz emerges with his finest performances. Andersen’s outstanding production results in one of the best contemporary blues albums of the year.