Harrison Kennedy Thanks for Tomorrow Electro-Fi Records
I don’t receive as many high-quality blues albums for review as I perhaps once did, but often enough something sneaks through to impress. This week that album comes from Ontario and Juno Award winner Harrison Kennedy.
Oowee! This is my kind of blues, a mix of soul and rhythm that gets my heart pumping extra hard…mostly ‘cause I’m dancing around the kitchen.
Kennedy has been a staple in and around Hamilton for years, returning to music in the early part of this century. Most everyone has heard Harrison as a member of Chairmen of the Board, and although he is not lead singer on “Just Give Me A Little More Time,” “Patches,” and “(You’ve Got Me) Dangling on a String,” he is there, including singing lead and playing harmonica on these clips of “Chairman of the Board” and “Hard to Handle.” He also played harp on “What’s Goin’ On.”
Thanks For Tomorrow is Harrison’s seventh album since 2007, but the first to make its way to my mailbox. It is a high quality moody and atmospheric album of down-low, original blues with plenty of hard rocking good times (“Memphis Trippin’” and “Cranky Woman”) and hopeful outlooks (“Easiest Thing I Do” and “Thanks for Tomorrow.”) His voice is stout and warm, gently pleading on “On Call Man,” playful on “Checkin’ You Out,” and plainly honest on “Doomed,” where soul meets Springsteen.
Ruthie Foster guests with Harrison on the magnificent “All I Need Is You;” I haven’t listened to her in too many years, so this was a lovely treat to again make her acquaintance. Colin Linden plays guitar on half the tracks, with Chris Caddell and Jimmy Bowskill covering the rest. Canadian roots stalwart Gary Craig (Blackie & the Rodeo Kings) takes care of the drumming, with Jesse O’Brien co-producing with Harrison while also handling the keyboards. John Dymond (also BARK) is the bass player of record, with Terry Wilkins and Paul Intson also appearing.
“You Lost Me” has an especially appealing groove, heavy on the organ with Dymond and Craig holding things together while Linden lays out notes of perfection.
The liner notes (Cindy McLeod, founder and artistic director of the Calgary International Blues Festival) state, “To delve into the music of Harrison Kennedy is to delve into the depths of the blues, from its roots in Africa to the strains of country blues, folk, R&B, and soul in North America. Yet all the while, Harrison defies labels and boundaries, with nary a ‘tradition’ to be found in his uniqueness.”
As Harrison sings, this is “soul music, jump, and blues.” And very good on all counts. A great album, one of my favourites of 2022.
I’ll be looking for more albums from Harrison Kennedy, and will be keeping my eyes open for Chairmen of the Board records, too.