I seem to be having a couple of weeks where new albums reach my ears that show old-fashioned R’n’B is alive and well. This time it’s San Francisco-based guitarist and vocalist Rockin’ Johnny Burgin and his harp-playing Spanish compadre Quiqué Gomez supplying the goods.
Dos Hombres Wanted announces itself with ‘Your Charm Won’t Help You’, a helping of bopping R’n’B penned by Burgin on which he delivers the vocals and also zinging guitar work, while Gomez adds harp licks aplenty over an easy beat and bobbing bass from Eric Przygocki, and ivories tinkle in the background courtesy of Christian Dozzler. And it has to be said, they make this stuff sound easy.
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‘Take It Like It Is (What I Gotta Do)’ features Gomez on vocals. He has a bit of a groaning style, with the slightest of Spanish inflections, but he understands how to deliver the lyric to good effect, while Burgin offers up a solo that starts off stuttering and reined in, before shifting to a more waspish gear, in contrast to Gomez’s plaintive harp.
There are a couple of nifty instances of that classic blues theme of the knockout babe who’s devoted to her man, in ‘You Can’t Steal My Sugar’ and ‘Everybody Loves My Baby’. The first rocks along urgently, with rollicking piano from Dozzler and a rattling rhythm from drummer Stephen Dougherty, while the second is an unhurried, steady groove, featuring subtle guitar with bags of twang from Burgin.
The flip side of those lyrical sentiments appears on the slow and mournful ‘Coffee Can Blues’, a tale of heartbreak on which Gomez moans away on harmonica throughout, and Burgin contributes a pinging, ringing solo, over simple, dragging bass lines from Przygocki.
A particular highlight is ‘Ain’t No High Roller’, a steady rumble of a track with squalls of harp and swirls of accordion from Dozzler in the background. With reined in surges of guitar from Burgin, and an insistent bass line, it has an on-the-money feel. ‘Step It Up Bro’ also scores heavily, with some shouted backing vocals on the chorus, the accordion pulled into the foreground, and woozy bursts of trombone from Farris Jarrah. The overall effect is a swinging, jazzy feel reminiscent of Sean Costello, underlined by some dreamy guitar tones from Burgin.
Robert Lockwood’s ‘Funny But True’ heads for Tom Waits-style late night lounge territory, and though it never has Waits’ edge or poetry it’s still a pleasingly minimalist affair, with twinkling guitar and piano. More fun, perhaps, is Tampa Red’s ‘Don’t Blame Shorty’, which is laid back and easy with a liberal helping of harp from Gomez.
At 14 tracks the album feels overlong, with a couple too many common-or-garden slow or mid-paced offerings. There’s some variety in the slow but atmospheric ‘The Jinx’, the vocals apparently delivered through a bullet mic over a steady, nagging beat and restrained guitar chords, and ‘Are You Ever’ is upbeat and shuffling, with a squealing harp solo and some stinging, brittle-toned guitar from Burgin.
I might have liked a tad more raunch here and there, a bit more hair let down. But on the whole Dos Hombres Wanted shows Burgin and Gomez hitting the mark old-fashioned R’n’B that catches the right vibe with ease and charm.
Dos Hombres Wanted is out now on Vizztone Records.