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Mr. Keith Little - Take It Off And Get Loose With It

(self-released CD)

Don’t judge this album by the low-budget cover art. Coming out of Cincinnati, Mr. Keith Little and friends play some killer R&B, funk and blues. They could teach other musicians a thing or two about pocket, but even more on how to create great song arrangements that put a fresh spin on tradition.

As a front man and singer, Little plays out the lady’s man persona with a deep baritone voice. He doesn’t have a broad range, but relies more on persona. Throughout the album, he stays pretty consistent to his shtick and his sound is as distinctive as a Bootsy Collins or Barry White, so you’ll either dig his singing or you won’t. I’m not too crazy about it, but as a bass player and guitarist, on the other hand, he is BADASS.

The players and the overall musicianship stand out on this album more than anything. Marcos Sastre, award-winning guitarist and founder of Cincinnati’s R&B group the Bluebirds, plays some smoking lead guitar, but there are many other great performers on this disc. Cheryl Renee Little, who happens to be Keith’s wife, plays some great piano and organ. She also turns out to be an outstanding singer in the duet “It’s All About You.” Check out her band Them Bones at . If you didn’t know about her already, you’ll discover a gem.

The twelve original songs (and additional cover of Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night In Georgia”) are often raunchy and played in a high-fevered, sweaty manner, with interlocked basses and guitars panting, moaning and getting down to business. Two of the slower songs are less exciting - the up-tempo songs suit Little’s vocal style better. On another critical note, the album would have benefited from an outside producer who could create a more “expensive” sound. But this is a minor comment, as we’re talking about a self-released album.

For the last 35 years, Keith Little has shared the stage and jammed with other great artists such as Little Milton, Kenny Neal, Pinetop Perkins, Long John Hunter, Anson Funderburgh & Sam Myers, Clarence Carter, Little Charlie & The Night Cats, Phil Guy, Frankie Lee, Skeeter Brandon, and Leon Wilkinson from Lynyrd Skynyrd. His other albums include “Going Downtown”, “Live At Jefferson Hall” and “A Mother’s Love.”

If you’re a fan of funky blues, get his latest release, ditch the cover art and listen to the great playing.

Reviewer Nikki O’Neill is a singer, songwriter and guitar player in Los Angeles. She fronts the Nikki O’Neill Band – a soul, r&b and rock band. She's included in Sue Foley’s upcoming book “Guitar Woman,” featuring a who’s-who list of great players like Bonnie Raitt, Ana Popovic, Jennifer Batten, and more.

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