Friday, September 27, 2019

Billy Price - Dog Eat Dog

Billy Price covers a few bases on Dog Eat Dog, its twelve tracks encompassing soulful blues, some different shades of funk, and ultimately Philly soul – all of which are delivered with top drawer musicianship, and channelled into an excellent sound by producer Kid Anderson, of Rick Estrin & The Nightcats fame.  And Price, a 2016 Blues Music Award winner, consistently delivers the goods vocally too.
The quality of his vocals is apparent right from the off on ‘Working On Your Chain Gang’ – relaxed and showing off characterful phrasing in a manner that recalls Delbert McLinton, underlined by some snazzy backing vox from the ‘Sons of Soul Revivers’.  With some
Billy Price - his voice is better than his jacket
Pic by Mark Simpson
rubber band bass twanging from Jerry Jemmott, a great rhythm, funky horns, and a zippy guitar solo from Anderson, it’s all enough to induce a soft shoe shuffle.
There’s a darker brand of funk on the title track, a Rick Estrin song that’s been given new lyrics to set out some despairing social commentary.  Estrin guests on harp, and the horns are restricted to some tenor sax remarks, as the patient delivery has the effect of slowly touring a decaying city.  ‘All Night Long Café’ is a slinkier affair, with a shout-it-out chorus from whoever happened to be around I guess, and a Mike Zito wah-wah solo.  It may seem simple and repetitive in form, but it works.
The pick of the soul blues bunch - and in fact of the album - is ‘Lose My Number’, on which Price and co pretty much out-Cray Robert Cray on a clever reflection about a femme fatale.  It’s laid back and measured, with a proverbially smoky sax solo and a neat descending Wurly piano motif courtesy of Jim Pugh, and Price captures the vibe perfectly with his vocal.  ‘Remnants’ is similarly blues-hued, with another witty lyric, this time about the tell-tale signs giving away a cheating partner, and shivering guitar backing.
There’s a different strain of blues on ‘My Love Will Never Die’, a Willie Dixon affair that’s given a reverb-heavy treatment, with twangy guitar from Anderson, dainty organ notes, and an aching vocal from Price, ultimately sounding like a replay of a lovelorn nightmare.
There’s a different kind of treat too, in the form of the finger-snapping ‘We’re In Love’, a cool but happy-go-lucky affair with sharp horn punctuation and an irresistible walking bass line to set toes tapping.
The back end of the album features some more Philly soul orientated songs, in the form of ‘Walk Back In’, ‘Same Old Heartaches’ and ‘More Than I Needed’, which aren’t really my bag, though it has to be acknowledged they’re well done.  More to my liking though is the closing ‘You Gotta Leave’, with its assertive lyric, stuttering offbeat rhythm, a jazzy Fender Rhodes piano solo from Pugh, and a jagged solo from Anderson that injects an edge the melody never quite acquires.
Dog Eat Dog shows off Billy Price’s mastery of soulful blues and funk, and if it tails off a bit towards the end – admittedly a matter of personal taste, in large measure – there are still a good half dozen tracks of real quality that are well worth getting your ears around.

Dog Eat Dog is out now on Gulf Coast Records.

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