Sunday, January 10, 2021

Shakin’ Woods: “The Blues Groove Sessions #1” (2020) CD Review

Shakin’ Woods is a blues band based in Washington, D.C., a strange place to be these days (though I suppose every place is strange in these uncertain times). The band is made up of Rich Russman on vocals and guitar, Paul Dudley on drums, George Belton on bass, and Austin Day on keyboards and guitar. George Belton had played with Rich Russman before, performing on his 2015 solo album, First In Line. You might also know Rich Russman from his other bands, The Creaky Bones (formerly known as The Virginia Southpaws) and The Jones. The Blues Groove Sessions #1 is Shakin’ Woods’ debut release, a four-song EP featuring mostly original material. It is the first of three planned releases, all of the tracks for these three EPs apparently already recorded. The music on this first release is blues, but with funk elements.

The disc opens with “Like A Superman,” a groovy blues rock number featuring some good percussion, some exciting work on bass, and something of 1970s vibe. “You might think it’s a shakedown, but I’m hanging on.” In the second half of the track, the band delivers a short, but delicious jam. That’s followed by “The Place To Be,” which is still blues at its base, but with a funkier style. This one has a groove designed to get you moving, and everything is working just right. And I love that moment when it breaks down and we can focus on that great bass line, a seriously cool section. When this crazy pandemic is over, and concert venues re-open, I hope this band goes on the road, because this track is making me think they’d be fun to see. “You don’t know what’s right/Dropped the ball on life/Took the wrong hand/Thought the offer would stand/Thought you give and you get/It all came back to regret.”

Things get even funkier on the group’s cover of “Cayman Review,” the only cover on the disc. This song was written by Trey Anastasio and included on his 2002 self-titled album. Though I used to enjoy seeing Phish in concert, I basically got off that train in 1999 (after a particularly lackluster show down in Orange County), and so wasn’t familiar with this tune. But it is a totally enjoyable song, definitely a good one to dance to. Shakin’ Woods is into it, seeming committed to making folks dance, making folks smile. This track features good leads on guitar and keys. I particularly like that work on keys. The EP then concludes with “Still Alive,” a slower, more serious-sounding blues song. This one has a heavier sound, to be sure, driven by guitar. “You weren’t all there/Well, maybe I didn’t care/But living life without you/Is a pain I couldn’t bear.”

CD Track List

  1. Like A Superman
  2. The Place To Be
  3. Cayman Review
  4. Still Alive

The Blues Groove Sessions #1 was released on October 15, 2020.

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