Your crusty chronicler is an individual who does his own thing. Still, when Examiner asked for support for their new “List” format, it was nigh impossible not to be open-minded about it. So, with the spirit of teamwork and unity in mind, your rockin’ reviewer presents this series—“Track by Track” in which we review certain select CDs literally “track by track”.
This edition of the series we (ahem) examine the latest release by the Chris Duarte Group My Soul Alone. Duarte is a native Texan singer-songwriter and blues-rock guitarist. The band’s signature sound relies heavily on a specific blend of blues, jazz and rock and roll. Duarte does, however, admit that it can be “a totally different ballgame” when they play live. Their roster currently includes Duarte on guitar and vocals, Steve Evans on bass and Aaron Haggerty on drums. The disc contains 12 tracks all written by Duarte.
(Read through the list to learn more about this release.)
“Show Me That You Want It”
The album opener is “Show Me That You Want It”. This is for many the initial introduction to Duarte’s writing abilities. It contains a noteworthy melody and is a strong enough beginning that some feel would work as a single. It might be a bit too spot-on for your rockin’ reviewer but it is interesting in that it appears to be both blues and a wee bit big band to boot.
“Yes, It’s You”
The second selection is the tune “Yes, It’s You”. This song is an early favorite of both critics and Duarte fans alike. It is essentially an upbeat near-pop piece that Duarte meant to be a tribute tune to The Beatles with a touch of country thrown in for good measure.
“Take Me Now” and “A Dollar Down & Feeling Low”
The track “Take Me Now” follows. It has almost an old school element to it and ably demonstrates his need to explore musically. Duarte said it is inspired by the likes of Steely Dan.
The next number is “A Dollar Down & Feeling Low” which is his obligatory slow minor blues bit on the album. It still works though because the music has a flow and direction to it.
“I Bucked It Up”
“I Bucked It Up” is destined to be a playlist topper for live gigs. It has that sing-a-long aspect to it. This is what some would call “party swing” and is obviously influenced by some of Duarte’s heroes such as Hubert Summlin and Buddy Guy. Throw in a strip club tom-tom beat and call it a day.
“Outta My Way” and “Leave My Soul Alone”
“Outta My Way” is another cut with a noteworthy melody. It is surely one of the highlights here although may often be overlooked by some critics. This Hendrix-inspired hidden comes complete with 7th chord accents.
“Leave My Soul Alone”, the near-titular tune has a comparatively stripped down sound and is obviously influenced by exposure to The Black Keys. It includes those high vertical guitar bends and that sync between the music and the vocals.
“Sweet Little Girl”
The eighth audio on the album is his heartfelt song “Sweet Little Girl” which somehow sounds inspired by the classic albeit lesser-known blues artist Howling Wolf. The lyrics reveal the work to be a fun, loving tribute to his daughter. This personal touch easily makes this Wolf-inspired piece all his own.
The B.B. King-like “Lazy Afternoon” is the album’s longest track with a running time of more than eleven minutes. This helps to highlight Duarte’s fondness for employing jazz elements in his writing. It is in truth one of his trademarks at this point. Lyrically, the evocative song leaves a mental image of the perfect day in the mind of his listeners. It has a musical laxness to it that is perfectly matched to this meandering musical mention of a “lazy afternoon”.
“Can’t Shut Me Out”
“Can’t Shut Me Out” is the next number. This is another Jimi Hendrix-inspired song that contains guitar work that literally speaks for itself. No doubt studious hardcore music aficionados will notice the strength of the instrumental work and the related song composition work done here to actually create this cut.
“Blue Jean Outlaw”
“Blue Jean Outlaw” was an experimental effort with a folk-influenced melody. The lengthy yet smooth and flowing track contains a musical progression within it that works with the story. Duarte elaborates: “I just wanted to tell a story in one of the songs and this western motif I settled on was a lot of fun” adding “I just wish I could write like Dylan.”
The closing cut “Carelessness” is an edgy audio that features guest musician Mads Tolling on violin. Duarte notes: “This is the name of a lodge that I met the violin player at during a jam we did in Northern California; Careless. The first song we jammed on was ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’ and it was a blast. Since it was ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’ that brought us together then why not come up with a melody that’s angular and quirky like ‘Jazz Dance’?”
It’s readily apparent that the Chris Duarte Group My Soul Alone is an efficient demonstration of their knowledge of the genre as well as a window into their creative process. They are striving to break new musical ground with their lyrics and melodic statements. Their musical mix of Texas scrawl, shuffle, rock, blues, jazz and more prove the music is the product of practiced planning and certainly not the result of mere “Carelessness”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.