ALBUM REVIEW: The Way by Bud Summers

a2412253726_10  Bud Summers is a guitarist and singer/songwriter hailing from St Louis. He was raised in a musical family with a father who played jazz bass and a mother who taught music at a public school. Although he was exposed to many genres including jazz, classical, opera and show tunes, he showed a preference for blues and rock. After trying piano and violin, he settled on guitar and went on to get a B.A in Music Performance, focussing on classical guitar as well as playing in the college jazz band.

He recorded two records with The Shot Down Band then played guitar for several groups (Tizzy, Carlson, Night Train and The Stingers) before going solo in 2006. He has released five CDs of original music as well as performing around 140 shows a year on average, a regular performer in  Chicago, Michigan and Nashville. This album, The Way, consists of seven tracks and the music is an eclectic blend of blues, rock, jazz and folk, combining to create a unique style of his own which he calls ‘Groundhog music’.

This fusion of genres is evident straight away on the opening track That’s Why. A mid paced, smoky blues/jazz song, it has the intimacy and bar room vibe of an artist like Tom Waits, as well as his gritty authenticity. Bud has the perfect voice for the material, his singing style halfway between a jazzy croon and the rougher edges of blues and rock. His guitar playing is also varied, alternating tight, clean rhythm playing with raw bluesy lead guitar that works as an effective contrast.

The song is nicely structured too; a funky, jazzy progression on the verse leads to a smooth second section that lyrically depicts his infatuation: “My world is spinning, floor is gone… I float but then I fly away…. I am beginning to catch on, it was meant to be this way…”. Jason McAfee on bass and Jake McAfee on drums provide excellent supporting roles and it makes for a great start to the album.

The second track, My Baby’s Big & Bad, is a twelve bar blues acoustic song, again about a woman, but this one shows a more light-hearted, humorous side to Bud’s songwriting as you can tell from the opening lines: “More chins than a Chinese phone book, more pounds than a pot of gold, more thighs than Colonel Sanders, and meaner than a Texas Bull….”. He then recites an entertaining tale of a large lady who’s a force to be reckoned with. It features some gorgeously smooth slide guitar playing as well as some excellent raw and throaty harmonica,  also having a sly dig at politics and religion in the verses: ” Well I was down at the tavern talkin’ politics, trying to explain it to them country hicks…”.

Third track She Sings Karaoke is a return to the full band sound, with a song about a talented amateur singer who might not be suited to the big time: “Won’t they be surprised when the real world comes along, when they hold the Grammies and turns out she doesn’t belong….”. The smoky blues rock vibe brought to mind Dire Straits’ classic Sultans of Swing and Bud really gets to display his lead guitar skills, laying down a mellifluous solo played with a killer tone.

Fourth track Ain’t Got Time For Whiskey returns to acoustic twelve bar blues, with some more fine harmonica work and excellent vocals harmonies that fill out the sound. It features another superb solo, with a biting twang and not a note wasted. Lyrically, as the title implies, it’s about putting his whisky drinking days behind him and the first line of the verse is a nice twist on the time honoured blues tradition: “Well, I woke up one morning…with a splitting head… “.

The Way I Do is another blues/jazz fusion with an angular, semitone based chord progression on the verse with more standard changes for the title hook. This song is about trying to make someone appreciate that they are loved, as summed up in the mellow second section: “You’ve been saying all along I’m the best thing…. you won’t be as happy if I’m gone so just don’t be a fool and let this go…”.

Bedtime Story is a lovely acoustic ballad featuring just Bud and his guitar. This along shows the folk influence in his music and his songwriting craft. The haunting vocal melody suits the romantic words: “Be my bedtime story, help me sow and reap, be my bedtime story till I fall asleep…”. My personal favourite on the album.

The final track Common Ground switches from the personal to the social, with a raw Springsteen-style lyric (and vocal delivery) about escaping from a town that has seen better days: “There’s bars on the windows running down the street, they go on and on as far as I can see….”. It is the most powerful song on the album and shows the serious side to his writing after the levity of earlier tracks.

Overall, this is a very high quality album from a first rate guitarist and singer/songwriter. He has become a master of his craft, after many years experience, and found his own musical niche between blues and jazz. Above all else, the music is enjoyable to listen to, containing classy musicianship throughout from Bud and his musical cohorts. The appeal of his music goes beyond the blues and jazz crowd as he writes accessible songs that any music lover can enjoy. A recommended listen.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.4 out of 10

 

 

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Give Us A Try by That’s The Dream

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That’s The Dream are a band from Montevideo in Uruguay. Their music is essentially commercial pop, with a slight rock feel given by the guitars. This three track E.P. is their first release as a group. The E.P. was written by Mauricio de los Santos and Federico Segredo, and produced by Antonio Acosta.

Give Us A Try, the title track, opens the E.P. in an upbeat way. Acoustic guitar and Mauricio’s distinctive singing form the main basis of the music, with some nice organ and lead guitar that add sonic colour. Lyrically, it is romantic fare, about encouraging someone to take a chance on a relationship. The title hook sticks in the mind fairly quickly, the song overall well-written and performed.

The Only One, track two, is slightly slower with a melancholy feel. Piano forms the main melodic sound of this song, aided by female vocals doubling the lead an octave higher at certain points, which is effective. The syncopated guitar on the second verse gives it a nice reggae feel, as well as rhythmic variety. Again, the lead vocal melody is excellent and is echoed in the piano part at times, adding to the poignancy of the song.

Last track, (Don’t Ever) Leave Me Behind, is very different to the first two and by far the longest. It is also, in my opinion, by far the best song of the three. It has both a South American and 60’s feel, the verse based around a fantastic chord progression leading to a memorable chorus. The lead vocals are passionate and emotive, the lead guitar towards the end the icing on the cake, with the band as a whole
putting in brilliant performances. Obviously, no one has let them know they’ve recorded a classic with this one, so it’s perhaps been underestimated due to its length. A four-minute edit of this song should be the lead track of this E.P.

Overall, this is a very good trio of tracks that show consistently high songwriting ability, all the band members making an important contribution to the overall sound of how they are delivered. As I’ve pointed out, my only criticism is with the running order but, regardless, That’s The Dream should find success with an impressive first release.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8 out of 10

 

LINKS

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thatsthedreamuy

Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/artist/3z1VDBVW5yRk76vVTYz2Bp

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/thatsthedreamuy

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/thatsthedreamuy

03:12   May 05, 2015