For an R’n’B band led by a harp player, Little Boys Blue have a remarkably mellow sound – don’t expect to hear JD Taylor start blowing up a typhoon anywhere on this album. From Jackson, Tennessee, they have a soulful, understated style, at times lightly funky in the manner of Albert King’s ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’, and on early listens I wondered if they would ever find top gear. But with repeated spins I began to appreciate that there’s some subtlety at work here.
These ten tracks, all originals, begin to resonate for their unhurried musicality, for Taylor’s
|I know that bar - Little Boys Blue groovin' in Beale St|
Right from the start, on ‘Six Foot Down’, the control is evident in the steady back beat, Taylor’s soulful singing, and the way they slowly build a mounting pressure. There’s a hint of ‘Green Onions’ in the B3 of Dave Thomas on ‘Loving Kind’, and they show the ability to deliver something slower and more contemplative on ‘Blues Bug’, then a cool, measured strut on the edgier title track, with its neat, rolling guitar riff and warm piano.
They get more uptempo on ‘Morning Train’, with its subliminal air of ‘It’s Your Voodoo Working’, before toughening up on ‘Cold Inside’, with Dave Mallard’s swinging bass bumping along to good effect. ‘Might As Well’ serves up a jump blues vibe – and I do like a bit of decent jump blues - with barrelhouse piano from Thomas and a call and response chorus from Taylor and the band, while ‘Got A Mind Of Your Own’ dials up the funk. ‘If The Blues Start Calling’ is a slow shuffling groove, with gritty harp from Taylor and some tasty slide into the bargain, and the closing ‘Going Back To Memphis’ is a more rootsy, chugging affair.
Hard Blue Space may not give you an adrenaline rush, but if you fancy the idea of an R’n’B band laying back and leaving each other lots of space to participate in bluesy musical conversation, then Little Boys Blue may be your bag. Personally I’d like a pint of Mississippi moonshine added to the mix, mind you.