Saturday, November 11, 2023

Mark Joseph: “Palisade Peach” (2023) CD Review

Mark Joseph is a singer and songwriter known for his work in The Big Wu as well as for his solo material. In 2021, he released Vegas Motel, which featured all original material. His new album, Palisade Peach, is a mix of originals and covers, with the covers being classic blues numbers like “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom.” A few of the folks who played on Vegas Motel join him again on this one, including Toby Lee Marshall on organ, Stanley Behrens on harmonica and tenor sax, and Steph Devine and Jill Mikelson on backing vocals. But he also has some fantastic guests on these tracks, such as Melvin Seals and Albert Lee.

The album opens with a wonderful rendition of “Back-Water Blues,” a song by Bessie Smith. There is a delicious, funky vibe to this version. Tom Freund is on bass, and Tony Austin is on drums. And I love those soulful backing vocals. Heather Donavon and Alex Steele join Steph Devine and Jill Mikelson on backing vocals. Stanley Behrens, known for his work in the group War, delivers some excellent stuff on harmonica, which also helps this track stand out. There is also a strong lead on guitar. It’s a fun rendition to get this disc off to a great and groovy start. The good energy continues on “Whole World’s Got The Blues.” That title rings true, doesn’t it? Things are certainly strange out there. Well, on this one, Jerry Jemmott is on bass, and Michael Jerome is on drums. You might know Michael Jerome from his work with Blind Boys Of Alabama, Richard Thompson, and Better Than Ezra, among others. And Jerry Jemmott is someone you’ve heard on recordings by Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, and Wilson Pickett. This track also features a fantastic lead on piano by Craig Wasner, and a passionate, energetic lead vocal performance from Mark Joseph. “You’re worth more than some loose change/You’ve got so much more to give/Nobody in this whole wide world can tell you how to live.” The backing vocalists again deliver some great work, Ryan Balthrop joining them on this one.

Mark Joseph’s rendition of “Come On In My Kitchen” has an acoustic blues approach, which is perfect. And that soulful humming at the beginning really helps set the tone. Steve McCormick plays guitar on this track, and provides some backing vocals. Heather Donavon is also on backing vocals. Ricky Cortes plays upright bass. There is a relaxed feel to this track, which is wonderful. And the guitar work is excellent. That’s followed by a lively, electric take on “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom.” There is a great energy to Mark Joseph’s vocal performance, matching the power of the guitar, and Stanley Behrens delivers more strong work on harmonica. “Palisade Peach,” the album’s title track, is an original number. It’s a cheerful, fun tune, with the backing vocalists echoing the song’s title at the beginning. Mark Joseph sings, “I love you, baby/And I don’t mind that you’re the boss.” And the backing vocalists agree, “I don’t mind you’re the boss.” Toby Lee Marshall’s work on organ is excellent, and this track also contains a really good lead on guitar, and some delicious stuff on harmonica. But it is that groove that is at its heart, with Michael Jerome and Jerry Jemmott delivering fantastic stuff on drums and bass respectively. This is one to get your body moving and grooving, and the band does jam on it a bit.

Melvin Seals joins Mark Joseph on a cover of “Deep Ellum Blues,” with an emphasis on “Blues.” You know Melvin Seals from his work in the Jerry Garcia Band. And of course the Grateful Dead covered this song several times (sometimes spelling it “Deep Elem Blues”). Melvin Seals, as always, delivers some excellent stuff on organ. He is a natural force on that instrument. This rendition features a great groove, and is another track to dance to. When you have musicians such as these, you want to give them the freedom to get loose, and the band wisely jams on this one, letting the groove drive it forward. Doug Christianson joins the band on percussion on this one. Tony Austin is on drums, and Tom Freund is on bass. Then Albert Lee joins Mark Joseph on lead guitar for “Daisy Train,” an original number. As you’d expect, his playing is fast and joyful. The song is about Festival Express, a concert series held in Canada, with a train full of bands jamming on their way from one gig to the next. The lyrics mention Pigpen, Jerry Garcia, Buddy Guy, Janis Joplin. This is another fun number with a strong rhythm.

“Venice Grind” is light, playful and groovy number, with something of a New Orleans vibe. While listening, I’m imagining a big spontaneous musical number busting out at the beach in Venice, with absolutely every single person engaging in the dance. I want to see that. Can someone help make that happen? “Way out on the coast/Where the water’s nice/Southern California, you’re paradise.” This track features some great stuff on sax. And, as you might expect by now, there is a delicious rhythm. Jerry Jemmott is on bass, and Michael Jerome is on drums. Then Toby Lee Marshall plays both piano and organ on the disc’s closing number, “Sad Mississippi Blues,” a slow blues number with a classic vibe. This track features some excellent stuff on guitar and a passionate vocal performance. “Got a letter this morning/You would not believe the words it read/I got a letter this morning/You would not believe the words it read/Said come on home to Mississippi/They tell me that your baby’s dead.” And check out that harmonica, which wails and mourns with him. It’s a powerful way to close out the disc.

CD Track List

  1. Back-Water Blues
  2. Whole World’s Got The Blues
  3. Come On In My Kitchen
  4. I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom
  5. Palisade Peach
  6. Deep Ellum Blues
  7. Daisy Train
  8. Venice Grind
  9. Sad Mississippi Blues

Palisade Peach was released on November 3, 2023, and is available both on CD and vinyl.

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