Andy T Band Double Strike American Showplace Music
I love receiving albums from groups I’ve never previously heard. Thanks to a growing network of publicists who send me material to review, this has been happening a bit more often recently as when Double Strike showed up in my mailbox a week ago.
I don’t know where the group is based, but the publicity material tells me it is fronted by Andy Talamantez, a blues guitar vet who has had the band going for three albums and a number of years. Previously the group’s lead singer was Nick Nixon, a soulful vocalist who contributes to half of the songs on this current recording. More recently, Alabama Mike Benjamin from the San Francisco Bay area signed on with the group to replace the retired Nixon. That’s where the Double Strike comes in, I suppose—two distinctive and powerful lead singers fronting an electric blues combo that matches them blow-by-blow.
Nick Nixon has a voice. Man, he sings! While the instrumentalists boogie and swing, Nixon just goes deep with a distinctive style that refuses to compromise. A pair of Chuck Willis songs—”Juanita” and “I Feel So Bad”—showcase Nixon’s plaintive manner, as does a take of Goree Carter’s “Drunk or Sober.” Nixon’s most robust performance comes on his final appearance on the album, “I Was Gonna Leave You,” an Andy T original. Not to be outdone, Alabama Mike takes control from the top, wailing “I Want You Bad” and Larry Van Loon’s simmering “Somebody Like You.” When he sings, “Baby since you left me, my life has been so sad” (“Sad Times”) I smile, not because I don’t feel his emotion, but because he sounds so damn good singing of his heartbreak.
A collaboratively written number from Talamantez, Benjamin, and album co-producer Anson Funderburgh (who’s “One Woman I Need” is covered on the Kozak album reviewed above) “Doin’ Hard Time” is another deep blues track, one that features solos from both Andy T and Funderburgh, but also some steppin’ horns. At other times the band swings, as on the closing track “Where Did Our Love Go Wrong” and “Deep Inside.” Mid-set, the Funderburgh instrumental “Mudslide” allows the core band including Van Loon on Hammond B3 and the rhythm section of Johnny Bradley and Jim Klinger additional space to shine.
Double Strike is worth searching out, and apparently the Andy T Band featuring Alabama Mike will be making an appearance at the Calgary Blues Festival in August, as well as a one-nighter at Lorenzo’s Cafe in Enderby, BC August 4; good for the fine folks of the north Okanogan community, bad news for the group’s tour router.