Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Soul Stew Records artist: Billy Thompson - Friend - New Release Review

I just received the new release, Friend, from Billy Thompson and I think it's really super! Opening with Soldier of Misfortune, a funky rocker, Thompson demonstrates not only a cool singing voice but unique arranging talent and hot guitar riffs. Backed by Chris Dominicion keys, Gene Monroe on bass, Jonathan Greenburg on trumpet, Ian Charlton on sax, Tom Tierney on sax and Eric Selby on drums Thompson really lays out nice guitar riffs making this a really hot track. Garden has a contemporary Latin rhythm and Thompson really shosw a mastery of slide guitar and vocals and is also backed by Mr Bill Payne on keys. Interlude is a deep gripping blues ballad featuring some of the best vocal work that I have heard in weeks. Mike Finnegan adds warm organ to this track and Thompson skillfully adds nice guitar backing to his own vocals like a master trimming his bonsai. A really tasty guitar solo erupts but never out of character of a contained ballad. Masterfully beautiful! Farmer Kenny is a cool swing track with a cool lope on the bottom by Chris Brown. Ron Holloway and Wes Lanich (keys) add a lot of texture to this track but Thompson really knows how to showcase his skills and here they are...kick back and listen. On title track, Friend, Mike Peed (keys) and James East (bass) join Thompson for a somewhat straight forward radio player. Very nice melody and hook. Half A Man is a soulful ballad which really has the stuff that gives a track longevity. Thompson again demonstrates that he really is a vocalist first and an instrumentalist second. His vocals are really terrific. I don't often comment on the credibility of vocalists unless they are superior because I really hear the voice as an instrument. When I hear someone who sings like this, I have to comment. I really like it... and he can rip on guitar too! Happy go lucky with a bop, Many Faces, has that light funk and great horns to push it along. Ron Holloway whips out some key riffs on this track and you need to think to keep your butt from squirming on this one... very hot! Also nice vocal backing from Dani Grays and Xzantiny Grant. With it's Louisiana stomp, Satisfied is driven by Selby's hot drumming and Bill Payne on keys. Undercover slide work adds nice texture to the track but it's really about the beat, the keys and cool vocals. Then I, My Love is another smokey blues ballad. It is so infrequently that I am really attracted to the vocal work of an artist that I have to stop once again and say...this guy is terrific! Mike Finnigan props up the vocals on this track with a bed of organs while Thompson dances lightly on the fretboard under his singing... brilliant. Ain't But One is a full out New Orleans hi speed funky march again featuring Finnigan but with Kenny Gradney on bass. Thompson doesn't hold back on his riffs on this track adding yet another track to the list of really great tracks on this release. On Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine, Thompson throws his own spin and Peed adds drama with piano. Bassist Dave Curtis and percussionist Danny Campbell join the mix and Thompson's vocal interpretation sounds fresh. Completing the release is While The World's Winding Down, sounding a lot like Further On Up The Road, is a great blues boogie romp giving Thompson on final chance to rip and rip he does. Finnigan adds really nice organ lines and Gene Monroe is right on with the bass. Selby has maintained the rhythm like a rock throughout the release. Overall this is one of the most enjoyable releases that I have had the pleasure of reviewing this year. Excellent job!

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