Hodge - Reelin’
10 songs; 44:28 minutes;
If a musical pedigree means anything toward a quality CD, then Dallas Hodge has the goods.
Dallas was born in 1954 in Detroit MI. He started playing the guitar at age 13. After leading several bands, he finally teamed up with his brother Bob “Catfish” Hodge in 1970 as the Catfish Hodge Band, recording several albums together. In 1978, he moved to Santa Cruz, CA. On his own with his band Deluxe, Dallas also sat in with artists such as Johnny Winter in 1981 along with Delbert McClinton and Bonnie Raitt.
In 1983, he moved to Los Angeles joining his brother “Catfish” once again to form the Hodge Brothers Band. The members were Dave "Woodie" Woodford (who played with Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Golub and many others) on saxophone, Larry Zack on drums (Jackson Browne), Marty Grebb on piano and sax (The Buckinghams, Bonnie Raitt), Skip Van Winkl (of Teegarden & Van Winkl, Bob Seger, and the Robbie Krieger Band) on Hammond B3 organ and kicking bass pedals with both feet. The Hodge Brothers did a tour for a record called "Chicken Leg's" with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Paul Barrere (Little Feat), Cornell Dupree (Aretha Franklin) and Freebo - all in the same band!
From this period until 2000, Dallas also had a band in Detroit known as the Detroit All-stars which featured Drew Abbott and Chris Campbell from Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band as well as a host of others, including his longtime piano man Tim "The Professor" Sparling.
In the year 2000, Dallas was offered the task of fronting the legendary band Canned Heat. “I knew I had some big shoes to fill," says Dallas. Bob "The Bear" Hite had passed away quite some time ago, and it was a challenge he met head-on for six years.
No longer fronting that band, Dallas has stepped up his efforts and pushed on with his own career, and with his own style of Motor City Rocking Rhythm and Blues. "People have told me that when they hear and see what I am all about, that I should share my music with the people. I have always played for the love of the music. Lord knows there are many other things you can do for money, but the music is always for the love!” Dallas says.
“Reelin’” is Dallas’s first solo CD, containing originals and reworked classics. “I recorded it to document who I am and what I do, more for my parents than anybody else....There was no attempt at making a ‘hit’ record, just good music,” Hodge wrote in April of this year. Well, Dallas should feel proud because that is exactly what he accomplished, and “good music” it is.
The set opener is “Divin’ Duck” which is basically Hodge’s arrangement and own take of “If the River Was Whiskey.” The mid-tempo blues starts with a pop from Tony Braunagel on drums and ivory tinkling by Rick Solem. Dallas’s whiskey-gruff vocals are nicely punctuated at the end of each sung line by album recorder and co-producer Tom Maclear on slide guitar. Hodge’s own gold top Les Paul guitar works above the Terry Wilson bass line, and Maclear and Solem take tasty mid song solos. The song works well to introduce what Hodge’s music is about and leaves the door open for surprises to come.
Track 2 gives us a big surprise, “Love Me Do” by the Beatles done slower in a completely original arrangement and style. He was 45 seconds into the song, before it hit me: Yumping Yiminy – that’s a Beatles’ song! The song opens with twin lead guitars played in harmony the way Elvin Bishop and Johnny Vernazzo used to do in Bishop’s Capricorn Records days. Making a full and lush sound, three horns harmonize with those guitars: David Woodford on sax, Lee Thornburg on trumpet, and Garrett Adkins on trombone. Before it all sinks in, the listener is whisked off into the nether by the up tempo track 3, “Take That Baby Home.”
Another change up is thrown our way with track 4, a re-work, with new lyrics, of Detroit friend Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind.” Titled “In the Wind,” the opening guitar switches to acoustic courtesy of Greg Beck. Skip Van Winkl plays Hammond B3 while another guest, Larry Zack, adds drums. Lamenting the loss of a friend, “Pops,” the song gets ethereal treatment from Maclear’s steel guitar and Solem’s piano.
Blues fans will enjoy Hodge’s take on an old BB King song, “Don’t Want Nobody.” Letting the little woman know that he knows what is going on, Hodge sings, “Tell the Carnation milk man not to leave no more milk. He’s been leavin’ too much cream lately, baby; may need to take some insurance on himself.” “Up the Country” gives a nod to Hodge’s Canned Heat days, but this version is at a slower tempo with outstanding slide guitar. Muddy Waters’ “Rock Me Babe” is given the Hodge treatment here. There was no need to re-invent the “wagon wheel,” just keep it rolling.
The title track and “Holiday” (by Catfish) are rock and rollers that showcase Hodge’s “Motor City” sound. “High Roller,” the other Catfish song, has a slow Southern rock style with slide guitar, road house piano, and backing vocals by Teresa James and Kelly “Kacee” Clanton.
Again, Hodge should be proud of this solid set of music showcasing what he does. While he wasn’t trying to create anything unique, there are enough surprises, thoughtful arrangements, and solid playing from guests and his own years’ experiences to make the CD interesting and enjoyable.
Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL