James and the Chicago Playboys
By James “Skyy Dobro” Walker
14 songs; 68:54 minutes; Highly Recommended
How many blues bands do you know in which the leader and singer plays a trombone, not a guitar, harmonica, or saxophone? None? You can now drop the “N” from “none” to leave “One.”
And, make that a BIG one, as in Chicago’s Big James Montgomery and his super back up band, the Chicago Playboys.
People always say the backup band was “tight.” Listen, the Chicago Playboys are tighter than a gnat’s ass stretched over a rain barrel! Joining James’ trombone is long time band-regular Charlie Kimble on saxophone while stalwart Kenny Anderson is a studio guest on trumpet and arrangements. Guitar fans fear not; Mike “Priest” Wheeler provides plenty of hot leads throughout while Larry “L-Dub” Williams plays lead-worthy bass. Cleo “Vette” Cole drums beside Joe “Goldie” Blocker on lead and rhythm keyboards. Joanna Connor provides guest slide guitar on a surprising arrangement of “Forever and Ever, Amen” popularized by Country music great, Randy Travis.
Recently featured in a six page article in Living Blues magazine, Big James is a three time winner of the Living Blues Critic’s choice award. He earned his way playing with Little Milton, Albert King, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, and others. This album, like his live shows, blends a vital mix of blues, R&B, funk, and soul into his own fresh sound. Purchasing this advance copy at an August show is the best money I have spent for two months!
In addition to the surprise cover of “Forever and Ever, Amen,” James sings his heart out on the old Journey song “Lovin,’ Touchin,’ Squeezin’” here listed as “LTS Blues.” It will have you singing the “na-na-na-na-na” chorus one more time.
Best standouts are originals, the title tack, “What It is...,” and “Make It Do What It Do.” For great slow blues, try original “I’m Done This Time” with Wheeler’s guitar healing the blind. Best dance number is “Trying To Live My Life Without You” popularized by O.V. Wright, Otis Clay, Johnny Rivers, and Bob Seger.
As Big James always says, “If you don’t know, now you know!”