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Album Review

It's East coast meets West coast as the swinging, jazzy jump style most associated with California blues gets roughed up with a shot of Memphis R&B, courtesy of Jackie Payne's gutsy vocals. Bring in the Sweet Meat Horn Section horns (Carl Green on tenor and alto sax and trumpet player John Middleton) for a finger-popping time and the result is a consistently engaging platter without any soft spots. Although Steve Edmonson is a fine if slightly laid-back guitarist, this really is singer Payne's show. His voice swells, bellows and hits the sweet upper register like Al Green, but also has the ability to shift into a salty growl similar to that of Bobby "Blue" Bland. He makes even standard issue fare such as the lazy shuffle of "Woman in Kansas City" sound vital, if not quite electrifying. It's natural to compare the soul singer/guitar slinger duo to that of Anson Funderburgh and the late Sam Myers as well as Smokin' Joe Kubek with Bnois King, and both are somewhat appropriate but not entirely correct. This is really soul music with a shot of blues, compared with the opposite for the other twosomes. All but four tracks are band originals (interestingly credited to all four members), with covers of material from O.V. Wright ("A Nickel and a Nail"), Eddie Floyd ("Just the One"), and Brook Benton ("I'll Take Care of You"), all of whom are obvious influences on Payne's vocals. The liner notes point out the similarity in the relationship between Edmonson as Steve Cropper supporting Payne's Otis Redding, and there are certainly analogies there. Regardless, this is a successful collaboration that hits all the right notes and yields one of the finest soul/blues albums of 2006. Payne is a real find and any fan of the genre will thrill to his fiery performance here.

Master of the Game, Jackie Payne Steve Edmonson Band
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