Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Up One Side..." - The Crossroads Band (Blues Town Records, 2009)

By Malcolm Kennedy
The Crossroads Band out of Seattle put out a new CD in 2009 entitled Up One side… So, when I interviewed them last January, I asked a few questions about it like, how many tracks? How many originals? To which they replied, “What is original? Define original? Although we do write our own songs, we also do completely new arrangements and/or add additional lyrics to existing tunes.” I will use a term I saw in an old Bluesletter that I liked, coined by Terry Davis, and call them “original covers.”

The band’s new record Up One Side… has 15 tracks, clocks in at over 66 minutes and features cover art of the band in action (rotate it to the left) by award winning artist Dennis Hacker. There are 5 band originals and as on the last CD I Want It…Right Now, four members of the band take turns on vocals with the two front men, Dennis Ellis (vocals, tenor sax, baritone sax and flute) and Steve Bailey (vocals, harp, guitar, slide guitar, whoops and hollers), again taking on the majority. The band feels that the recording and sound qualities are both superior to their previous CD, which was a 2007 Best of Blues Award nominee for Best Washington Blues Album.

The songs on Up One Side… are very strong, starting with “Fannie Brown Got Married” and Dennis on vocals. Dan sings on the title track which he wrote while studying in Russia. The sax/ harp interaction is amazing. One of the things that Dennis and Steve do is play in harmony with Steve taking the lines of an additional sax. The effect is truly stunning. On “The Sun is Shining,” an Elmore James standard, they play more in the style of Hound Dog Taylor’s version. Dennis brings out his new toy (a baritone sax) and Steve plays some nasty slide guitar. Rollicking New Orleans style piano appears a couple of times and “Double-Eyed Whammy” will have you dancing in your seat. They finish off the CD with the iridescent instrumental “Big D Walks In.” Tasty sax solos and dazzling reed bending harp lines abound, along with interplay and harmonizing, seasoned guitar playing, polished key boards backed by a solid rhythm section with multiple vocalists. Up One Side… is hitting on all cylinders. This CD is very highly recommended.

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