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BILLY LAVENDER Memphis Livin i55 Productions (2010)

Billy Lavender

Billy Lavender's 'Memphis Livin' is an enjoyable journey though the best of the Memphis club scene taking in Rhythm & Blues, soul, funk boogie and blues.

Almost as if paying his dues Billy has surrounds himself with the likes of B3 star Russell Wheeler, harp player Vince Johnson and excellent multi-guitarist Brad Webb who stars with some mega slide on the opening 'Singing the Blues'. Billy himself has a growly vocal style almost at odds with his long leaner linear guitar lines.

Ironically enough his best performances come when he's playing as a sideman to someone else, most notably on the Vince Johnson led shuffle 'Shake It' on which Billy's solo is the perfect topping to some cool dynamics. Similarly the same duo works well on the slow blues 'Cold As Ice' on which Vince's harp playing is a mix of exuberant and rough hewn as he blazes his way over the top of Wheeler's organ. And almost as if to show the light and shade of their repertoire Billy and band slip into rock & roll mode for 'Get Along' which features a powerhouse track from Tony Adams.

But this is an album of many colours and styles especially so when Reba Russell adds her soulful vocals on the impressive 'Blue' - complete with some unlikely sitar from Brad Webb. - and the soulful ballad 'Bottom Line' on which Billy adds some nice jangling 6 and 12 strings guitars.

The strength of the album lies in the way the different styles contribute to a coherent whole, particularly so on the Brad Webb, two guitar duet and harmony vocals of 'If I Could'. The downside is that you feel a better production would have reduced the audio clutter and probably focussed more strongly on the songs and vocals generally. But as a snap shot of vibrant Memphis blues scene this album just about does the job best encapsulated by the cool blues of '3AM' on which Billy brings real presence and a big tone to bear on another fine vocal from Vince Johnson. Way cool!


Review by Pete Feenstra


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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