Sean Chambers: muscular singing and stellar blues-rock guitar work
Back In the Saddle
By David McGee
LIVE FROM THE LONG ISLAND BLUES WAREHOUSE
The Sean Chambers Band
Blue Heat Records
Live albums can be hit or miss affairs and are rarely as satisfying as a well thought out studio effort, but in Live From the Long Island Blues Warehouse, the Sean Chambers Band has done a laudable job of survey its past, present and future in a tasty 10-song set that is an emphatic display of Chambers’s stellar blues-rock guitar work and muscular singing, while at the same time showing off his accompanying trio as a tight, aggressive unit (featuring the potent blues harp work of Gary Keith, one of the best out there) perfectly attuned to their leader’s energy.
Sean Chambers Band, ‘In the Wintertime,’ as featured on the band’s latest album, Live From the Long Island Blues Warehouse.
Seven of the ten Chambers originals are from his three earlier studio albums, including three potent numbers from his impressive 1998 debut, Strong Temptation, including a tough, piledriving take on “Danger Zone”; the Stevie Ray Vaughan-ish mean woman blues ballad “Crazy for Loving You,” with a powerful, gravelly vocal, shaded just so to walk the line between anger and despair as he punctuates his misery with stinging stabs of aggrieved protests from his guitar, tempering their heated, upper neck blasts with a sorrowful, despairing sighs; and an album opening instrumental, “Dixie 45,” all wah-wah aggression and hard charging percussion as it hurtles to its conclusion, which sets up “Love Can Find a Way,” a bit of triumphant revenge from his 2004 Humble Spirits album fueled by Chambers’s sputtering, SRV-like guitar and barely contained glee at telling an old flame who’s trying to reconcile that another mule’s kicking in her stall now. From his acclaimed 2009 album Ten Til Midnight, Chambers serves up a relentless, growling rendition of “Too Much Blues,” which has the thunder and nimbleness of early Zep blues barnburners (before the beast grew into a lumbering Leviathan) plus cleverly inserted nods to Hendrix and Marc Bolan in his fierce, driving solos; and an album closing epic (10:25), “In the Wintertime,” its affectionate, loving lyrics (“you know her heart warms the sun/and her eyes will set you free”) offset by great gale gusts of chords, quavering, whammy bar-induced howling, and tsunami-like surges of piercing single-note runs that suggest he might be romanticizing a doomed relationship. The album’s most stirring moment comes in Chambers’s intense cover of the Kinsey Report’s blues-noir classic “Full Moon on Main Street,” a malevolent, sinister tale of evil afoot in the city, written by blues legend Fred James and originally featured on the Kinsey brothers’ superb 1987 debut album, Edge of the City. Chambers delivers a gripping vocal, as restrained as it is emotional; as the tension rises around him, his searing guitar solo cuts through the doom-laden ambiance with startling vehemence.
Sean Chambers Band at the Daytona Blues Festival, October 7, 2011, perform Fred James’s ‘Full Moon on Main Street,’ from the the Kinsey Report’s acclaimed 1987 debut album, Edge of the City. Chambers’s cover is also included on his new Live From the Long Island Blues Warehouse.
Newly written for this live set, “Hip Shake Boogie” does exactly what its title says, in lively fashion, featuring—correct me if I’m wrong—what sounds, ever so briefly, like an updated nod to Billy Butler’s guitar solo in Bill Doggett’s timeless “Honky Tonk” masterpiece from 1956. Regardless, “Hip Shake Boogie” heads for the light, which his exactly what Chambers has been doing in recent years. From 1998 to 2003 he was Hubert Sumlin’s guitarist and bandleader before going out on his own, only to have misfortune strike: in 2004, shortly after completing Humble Spirits, his Florida home was wiped out in two successive hurricanes. To regroup, Chambers took a day job and set music aside as he rebuilt his home and his life over the next four years, before returning dramatically two years ago with Ten Til Midnight. “Hip Shake Boogie” sounds like it comes from a man who’s fully back in the saddle, solely on the strength of the joy radiating from its music, without a lyric being sung or needing to be sung. That’s something, friends.
The Sean Chambers Band’s Live At the Long Island Blues Warehouse is available at www.amazon.com