Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Forrest McDonald Band: “Blues In A Bucket” (2020) CD Review

Forrest McDonald has been performing for more than fifty years, delivering some delicious blues and blues-related music. His new album, Blues In A Bucket, features all original material, written or co-written by McDonald. This band can groove and rock, then drop you deep into the blues and pull you out again. It features Andrew Black on lead vocals, and includes a horn section. Blues In A Bucket follows the band’s 2017 release Stand My Ground.

The album opens with “Boogie Me Till I Drop,” which – as you might guess from its title – is a fun number. This tune has a wonderful New Orleans vibe and rhythm, the horns urging us to join together on the dance floor. Yeah, the band is throwing a party, and it seems we are all invited. Time to cut loose, enjoy ourselves. “When she puts that stuff in motion, lord, the walls come tumbling down.” The Forrest McDonald Band then gets a whole lot deeper into the blues with “Blues In The Basement,” Andrew Black’s voice being the focus here. He gives a really good, powerful vocal performance – sometimes smooth, sometimes gloriously raw. “‘Cause when you’re living your life down in the basement/Lord, mercy, it’s filled with despair/Yeah, so much despair.” This track features some really cool, expressive work on guitar, plus some sexy stuff on keys.

The moment the title track “Blues In A Bucket” begins, its bright vibe works to raise my spirits. Ah, it’s wonderful how the blues can do that. And let’s give credit here to the bass line, because, yeah, it’s working well. “Put my blues in a bucket/Gonna throw it in the sea/I’ll sit and watch the tide roll away from me.” I think we all want to chuck our blues at this point. How great it would be to watch them pulled away by the tide. And for me, really, that means tossing Donald Trump into the ocean, and watching the waves pull him out to sea, never to return. Goodbye, blues. This track becomes a good jam there in the middle. “Windy City Blues” immediately establishes a wonderful groove that is familiar and soulful. This track features some absolutely delightful touches on keys, and a really good vocal performance. “I got them Windy City blues/I’ve got to face the facts/I gave my love to a woman/And she never gave it back.” I also love those horns, the way they are at first so gentle, like caresses offered in the night, and then later more lively, particularly when joining with the guitar in the second half of the song. That lead on guitar is excellent, each note so clear, so precise, so effective. This is one of my favorite tracks.

“Go To The Light” has a fun groove and a cheerful, totally enjoyable lead vocal performance. But what I really love about this song are those gospel-sounding backing vocals and the way they are supported by the horns. Wonderful stuff there. “Everyone is so confused/They don’t know what to do.” Yup, that’s just about right. By the way, whenever I hear someone say anything like “Go to the light,” I can’t help but think of that scene from Poltergeist, with JoBeth Williams shouting, “Run to the light, Carol Anne!” “Go To The Light” is followed by “Misery And Blues,” its opening lines being “The whole world’s gone crazy/It’s filled with misery.” Again, yes, that’s just about right. And every day it is getting crazier. I love the way the backing vocals echo “Misery.” Beautiful. “There’s no more peace and love/Just pain everywhere I see.” This is a serious song with a darker vibe, but it features some great stuff from the horns, plus some excellent work on both guitar and harmonica. That harmonica becomes the soul of the song, crying out and expressing the pain and worry so many are experiencing. “We can’t go on like this, or we’re all going to lose/I don’t know about you, baby, but I’ve had enough of this misery and blues.” I’ve been saying that for three years now. Please, an end to Donald Trump means an end to this country’s misery; or, at least an end to a large portion of it.

Becky Wright joins the band on lead vocals for “Powerhouse,” a strong, mean blues number, with some lyrics to match that sound, that vibe. Check out these lines: “I’ve been standing at the crossroads with a hellhound on my trail/And at the stroke of midnight, he’s going to take your soul to hell/Wish you well.” I love that “Wish you well,” and the way she delivers it, that attitude. Becky Wright turns in one hell of a good performance here. The album began with a fun track, a party song, and it ends that way as well, with “Let The Love In Your Heart,” featuring another great rhythm. Becky Wright again joins the band on vocals, and on this one we have both female and male lead vocals. “There’s a breeze rolling in/A change is going to come/Beyond the yonder mountain/I can see the rising sun/Open up your heart/Listen to your mind/Forget about yesterday/Leave it all behind.” And, yes, I can’t help but smile at the phrase “yonder mountain,” being a big fan of Yonder Mountain String Band. Plus, this track features more good stuff on guitar and harmonica. This track leaves us in a good place, and for that I am thankful.

CD Track List
  1. Boogie Me Till I Drop
  2. Blues In The Basement
  3. Blues In A Bucket
  4. Blue Morning Sun
  5. Hard To Lose
  6. Windy City Blues
  7. Go To The Light
  8. Misery And Blues
  9. Powerhouse
  10. Going Back To Memphis
  11. Let The Love In Your Heart
Blues In A Bucket is scheduled to be released on February 7, 2020.

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