East Side Slim
Steve Gerard and The National Debonaires featuring Dave "Elmo" Bailey – Words Are Like Bullets – Blue Edge Records, 2010
This highly entertaining CD is the 2nd effort from this aggregation; take the time to check out their exceptional 1st CD – New Sounds from Kansas City. 'Mo Bailey is given featured credit on both CDs for good reason; as the folks in KC and St. Louis are well aware, he's a heck of a singer!
This is a very good band folks, with Steve Gerard on guitar, Mo singin', Patrick Recob playing bass, Dwight Ross shaking the drum kit and Shinetop Jr. (Mike Sedovic) pounding the piano. While those men might not be household names to most of you, they are all seasoned veterans of the blues wars and know how to put some great tunes together. In addition to the core band, several special guests were brought into this project, each for a song or two, including: Mike Clark on tenor sax, Greg "Junior" Demchuk (a fine player from North of the Border) on guitar and harp, Preston Hubbard on upright bass and Lee McBee on harp.
I wanted to share the following combined quotes by Steve Gerard, taken from the CD liner notes: "this second National Debonaires album features all original songs recorded over the past two years in Kansas City, Cadiz, Ohio, St. Louis and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. We just write and play, so you can make up your own mind about Words Are Like Bullets." Like the man said, give it a spin and see if you don't like what you hear – East Side Slim thinks you will!
The Songs: (songwriter in parenthesis)
1. Uh Oh – (Dave "Elmo" Bailey)
--This up-tempo stop-time track serves as a nice lead-off to the CD, built on an old-school walking bass line. In addition, the guitar emulates a baritone sax, and plays in conjunction with an actual tenor sax to create a very cool "horn" section effect.
2. Bullets In The Barrel – (Patrick Recob)
--This cut is the star of the show as far as I'm concerned. An unusual rhythm pattern sets the mood here, providing a swingin' train-on-the-track feel - if you can imagine that. Biting guitar lines (straight outta Texas!) and cool keyboard-organ work give this tune a very hip feel. 'Mo's vocal turn on this one is great, fitting with the instrumentation like a hand in a glove.
3. Baby Get Your Skirt Up Now – (Steve Gerard)
--Listen to Shinetop Jr.'s left-hand work on the piano, playing around and underneath the other musicians – it really makes this song special. There's plenty of fine Texas-inspired guitar work once again, and Elmo provides another excellent vocal. This tune is a whole lotta fun!
4. Silly Boy (To The Max) – (Dave "Elmo" Bailey)
--This cut is a slow blues shuffle, something similar to what you'd expect to hear from Muddy Waters during Jimmy Roger's time with the band. Harmonica is supplied by Junior Demchuk, who happens to be a fine harp player in addition to a fantastic guitarist.
5. Find The Answer – (Patrick Recob)
--Talk about your fine harp players…Lee McBee is playing on this track. This man is a killer harp player, folks! The tune is slow-to-mid tempo hard blues; twin guitars, bass, piano, drums and harp, with 'Mo singin' so fine. I really dig 'Mo's singing, as you can understand all the words he sings while at the same time he doesn't sound stiff. The man has soul!
6. Oscar's Safe At Bing's Place – (Steve Gerard)
--This is a jazzy, swinging number with clever word play, featuring the piano work of Shinetop Jr. If you ever get a chance to see him play, take it; you will enjoy yourself.
7. One Handshake – (Steve Gerard)
--Ahhhh, a little Texas blues groove going on here, a la Jimmie Vaughan. This thing oozes Dallas blues (where do you think so many of the Austin, TX, guitar players originally came from? It wasn't Austin.) The song works an unhurried pace, with echo-laden guitar, funky organ sounds, snapping snare and Elmo digging deep on the vocal.
8. It Didn't Happen That Way – (Steve Gerard)
--This is a late night blues, with the feel intensified by the fine acoustic bass work of guest player Preston Hubbard. Of course, the sexy tenor sax sounds of Mike Clark don't hurt, either.
9. Air Of Negativity – (Steve Gerard)
--Instrumentally, the sound here is sparse, or atmospheric, with only keyboard-organ, guitar and light percussion as the backing. The star of the show is Elmo. He sings here in a pleading manner, turning this song into a prayer of release and redemption.
10. Ain't My Problem – (Steve Gerard)
--This cut was previously released on Sean Carney's Blues for a Cure in 2009, and features Sean Carney, Steve Gerard, Gene Walker (sax) and the KC band Trampled Under Foot. Nick Schnebelen from TUF is singing lead on this cut, and he sounds great – a nice deep, gritty blues voice. It's a good blues shuffle played at a slow tempo.
This CD, Words Are Like Bullets, is a fine effort by a band in contention for longest working name – Steve Gerard and The National Debonaires featuring Dave "Elmo" Bailey. No matter how you say it, that's a mouthful! Fans of traditional electric blues, especially of the Dallas, Texas, variety should get hold of both CDs from this band as soon as possible. This album is played in true ensemble fashion, sounding better and better with each listen. It works its way into your soul like all good blues should – nice and deep. Steve Gerard is a fine guitar player possessing good tone and great taste. Dave Bailey is a blues-singer's blues singer; the man has a voice made for singing this music. The keyboard work of Shinetop Jr. is an (almost) hidden weapon here; listen closely so you hear everything he plays, especially while he is comping. Throw in a rock-solid rhythm section, then spice it up with some special guests and you've got a project to be proud of. One other thing – play it loud! OK, it's time to rate this bad boy; I'm handing out an STLBluesometer rating of 3.50 to Words Are Like Bullets.
For more information concerning Steve Gerard and The National Debonaires, see the following websites:
Howland - aka
"East Side Slim"