Saturday, December 23, 2017

The McKee Brothers: “Moon Over Montgomery” (2017) CD Review

The McKee Brothers are Denis McKee on vocals, guitar, keyboard, bass, and cowbell; and Ralph McKee on vocals, bass and lap steel. Their musical history is quite lengthy, but they didn’t release an album together until last year’s Enjoy It While You Can. On the cover of that album is a photo of a blender, and – instead of “liquefy” and “ice crush” and so on – the buttons are labeled “funk,” “blues,” “soul,” “rock,” “jazz,” “gospel” and “Latin.” The album cover is spot-on, and would work just as well for their new release, Moon Over Montgomery. The music on this new CD is blues, rock, soul, jazz, funk and even country. And as on their first release, The McKee Brothers are joined by a large number of talented musicians and vocalists. The album features a lot of original material.

The album opens with “Pig Feet,” a somewhat odd number featuring some nice work on harmonica. “We don’t serve no pig feet/No, not at this time/When it comes to a pig foot/That’s when I draw the line.” It was written by Bobby West, who plays keyboards on this track. Actually, Bobby West wrote a good number of the songs on this album, including the following tune, “Confidential,” a fun song about a popular girl from New Orleans. “She was just as cool as she was hot/Man, the way she rocked a pair of jeans/Could hold up traffic and create a scene.” The song has a New Orleans-type rhythm, and some good touches on horns, as well as some nice work on guitar during the instrumental section in the second half.

Those are both good songs, but the album really begins to pull me in during the third track, a great cover of King Floyd’s “I Feel Like Dynamite.” I fucking love those backing vocals in this rendition. What a great addition to this song. And the lines “I can do anything that I want to do/I can sing anything that I want to sing” seem particularly apt for this band, the way they tackle all sorts of musical genres. This track feels like the party is seriously getting underway. That’s followed by “Worried About Tomorrow,” a song written by Denis McKee. This one has a country rock flavor, and features some great blending of voices. I love the energy to the vocal delivery. This is a song I like more each time I listen to this disc. “They say freedom is worth the price we pay/But I’m not sure whose fight is it anyway.”

The album’s title track, “Moon Over Montgomery,” is a total delight. It has such a cheerful and positive vibe about it, a good rhythm and great stuff on horns, all working to raise my spirits. This one was written by Bobby West, and is among my favorite tracks. I definitely recommend checking it out. The following track, “Kicks,” also written by Bobby West, contains a play on a line from Hamlet. At the beginning, Bob Schultz sings, “But between me and you/That’s not exactly true/There’s a method to my magic/And in everything I do.” The phrase “a method to his madness” is from Hamlet, though the actual line – spoken by Polonius – is “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t.”  This song has a wonderful big band flavor, featuring more great work on horns over a good groove, with the vocals rising gloriously over it all.  

“Late At Night” features a cool bass line and some 1970s disco elements. Larry McCray takes lead vocal duties on this one (and also plays guitar). The song is about suddenly running into an old flame, and wondering what might have been or what might still be. “It’s been a long time, I know, since we went our separate ways/I’m fine, looks like time’s been good to you/I must admit you piqued my curiosity/And now I just don’t know what to do/’Cause it’s late at night and I’m alone.” This one was written by Denis McKee. “Flat, Black & Circular” is one that Denis McKee and Ralph McKee wrote together, and is about a trip to the record store, and about how music can transport us. So, yes, I do appreciate it, particularly as the song is rather dismissive about downloading tracks and listening to music on one’s phone. (Seriously, how the fuck can anyone listen to a song on a phone? It’s like going back to a crummy little transistor radio.) “There’s just nothing like it, nothing’s quite the same/Spinning all them old discs, lighting up that flame.” Oh yes.

The album concludes with a Kenny Loggins cover, and one that is perfect for the holiday, particularly for those of us who are far from our loved ones. “Celebrate Me Home” is the title track from Kenny Loggins’ first solo album, released in 1977, and begins with the lines “Home for the holidays/I believe I miss each and every face.” Melissa McKee takes lead vocal duties on this track, and does a good job with it. “Play me one more song/That I'll always remember/That I can recall whenever/I find myself too all alone/I can make believe I'm already gone/Let me know where I belong/Sing me home.”

CD Track List
  1. Pig Feet
  2. Confidential
  3. I Feel Like Dynamite
  4. Worried About Tomorrow
  5. You Know How I Lie
  6. Moon Over Montgomery
  7. Kicks
  8. Bayou Man
  9. Go 2 Work!
  10. Where You Getting’ It?
  11. Runaway Love
  12. Late At Night
  13. Remember When
  14. Flat, Black, & Circular
  15. Blues Of The Month Club
  16. Celebrate Me Home
Moon Over Montgomery was released on October 1, 2017.

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