The Phantom Blues Band
Vizztone Label Group
The Phantom Blues Band originated as Taj Mahal’s backup band. They first appeared on 1993’s “Dancin’ The Blues” and won a Blues Music Award for Traditional Blues Album of The Year. They went on to appear with Taj again on two Grammy Award winning albums: “Taj Mahal Phantom Blues” and “Shoutin’ In Key: Taj Mahal and The Phantom Blues Band Live”. In 2001 they won a second BMA as “Band of The Year”.
The band members rank among our best session musicians and have toured with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Otis Rush, The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray and others. Individually their awards are too many to mention. It is their collective musicianship that makes them one of our most exciting ensembles. The Phantom Blues Band includes Tony Braunagel, drums; Larry Fulcher, bass and vocals; Mike Finnigan, keyboards and vocals; Johnny Lee Schell, guitar and vocals; Joe Sublett, saxophones; Les Lovitt, trumpet and special guests.
The Phantom Blues Band first stepped out to record as their own unit on the appropriately titled 2006 “Out of The Shadows” on Delta Groove Records. The following year they followed up with “Footprints” also on Delta Groove. 2008 saw The Phantom Blues Band re-unite with Taj to record “Maestro”. In 2011 The PBB recorded “Inside Out” for the Vizztone Label Group resulting in another Band of the Year nomination. The demand for these seasoned veterans has kept them apart until now.
The twelve tracks include five selected covers and seven originals written by members of the PBB. The horns open “Don’t Fight It” sung by Fulcher, Schell and Finnegan, written by Steve Cropper and Wilson Pickett it was first recorded by Pickett in 1965. Sublett takes a fabulous saxophone solo. “I’m Just Your Fool” sung by Schell is credited to Buddy Johnson who first recorded it in 1953; seven years later it was recorded by Little Walter. Two songs, the Mose Allison influenced “Blues How They Linger”, and “Fess On Up” are from the late David Egan, a wonderful songwriter, who passed in 2016. Another fine song “Stop Runnin’ Away from My Love” written by Jeff Paris was recorded last year by Coco Montoya.
Three songs are written and sung by Finnigan who plays both piano and organ; “Just in Case”, the Dr. John flavored “Better But Not Good” with a trumpet solo from Lovitt, and “Bad Blood”. On these the background vocalist is Schell with Fulcher added on the latter.
Fulcher and his restaurant partner Myrna Nicely-Fulcher contribute the reggae styled “Shine On”, written with Eric Morton, with additional trumpet from Darrell Leonard. “Tequila Con Yerba” is from Fulcher and Sublett. From Sublett and Schell is “Wingin’ My Way” dedicated to the late Paul Barrere with its distinct Little Feat vibe, featuring Schell’s slide and percussion from Lenny Castro. Also from Sublett and Schell is the closer “I Was Blind”.
A new album from The Phantom Blues Band is an event. Hopefully this album will be followed with a tour. It doesn’t get much better than this.