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Tommy Keys - The Man In The Moon
10 songs; 47:50 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Piano led Blues, Rock and Roll, Boogie Woogie
How many performing bands and musicians are there in the U.S.? With a national population of 308 million, could there be 500,000 bands or 5 million? I do not know the answer, but what I do know is this: the supply of available music is huge – way more than even all the independent record companies can maintain. So, how can deserving, quality, award winning regional acts break nationally?
One answer is the annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis hosted by The Blues Foundation. To my mind, if Tommy Keys had not competed and been a finalist in the 22nd annual IBC, I would have never paid much attention, and that would have been a shame.
A native of Long Island NY, the 54-year-old Keys is known for Barrelhouse Boogie and Blues piano with moody, soulful vocals. Fans tired of guitar shredding Rock will delight at “The Man in the Moon,” Key’s enjoyable third CD featuring seven original songs and three well chosen covers. The recording employs a multi-talented line-up starting with passionate vocals, solid songwriting, and imaginative keyboards from Tommy Keys. No less than eighteen artists appear on the CD, co-produced by Keys and Savoy Brown’s Mario Staiano, with the most notable guest being Gary U.S. Bonds adding some background vocals.
The set opens with the title track, which is one of
the best cuts on the CD. “The Man in the Moon” is a bouncy mid-tempo number with
a New Orleans feel to it. Peter Danforth’s Saxophone paces the rhythm, and John
Whelan takes two nice guitar solos. Meanwhile, Tommy’s keyboards accent the
vocals about a relationship gone bad with nowhere left to turn for answers
except the man in the moon.
“Rock A Boogie Woogie” is a dance inducing high energy tune about a band playing on a Saturday night to an excited crowd. Rich Cannata plays a wailing saxophone solo, trading leads with Keys on organ and Whelan on guitar.
For some real-deal Blues, “Troubled Life Blues” is a slower paced number featuring John Whelan’s early Allman Brothers influenced guitar work. “The house is in foreclosure, the car has been repossessed, the sheriff’s on the doorstep with a man from IRS...,” sings Keys in this plea for a helping hand.
Piano fans will appreciate the glee in a tribute to the late Mr. Big Joe Duskin, titled “Big Joe the Boogie Man.”
Memphis Slim’s “Born with the Blues” is given a fitting arrangement with Keys singing his deepest sentiments while recapitulating Slim’s cascading solos. The message: “You can’t learn the Blues in school!”
Another fun romp is found in Professor Longhair’s “The Hadacol Bounce” about a cure all elixir from the 1940s. (Allegedly the name comes from the idea that they “had to call” it something, thus, Hadacol.) Yes, friends, shake it and take it everyday!
The set closer is Floyd Dixon’s “My Wish,” a slow, emotional plea for things to go back to the way they used to be. Key’s organ and the rich background vocals give the song a near Gospel feel.
“The Man in the Moon” is probably Key’s best work yet, and it’s a winning combination of styles all fueled by his formidable keyboards and vocals. Sure, there are a lot of artists and bands out there, but piano fans will understand why he was a finalist in the solo/duo competition at the IBC.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Thursdays from 7 - 8 pm and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL
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