You Need To Live A Little
Polygram / Verve
For some reason (maybe as a
testimony to the wisdom of record executives),
Larry Garner’s You Need To Live A Little
is no longer in print. This is a shame, because it
is his best recording, which is really saying
something given his outstanding body of work.
For most listeners in the U.S., this was their first
exposure to Garner since this was his first release on a U.S. label
(PolyGram’s Verve subsidiary), though he had recorded a couple of
classics for JSP in the early ’90s.
A Baton Rouge resident, Garner was inspired by local
bluesmen like Silas Hogan, Guitar Kelly, and Clarence Edwards. He
learned to play guitar from some of his relatives, but ended up in
Korea, serving in the military. When he returned home, he played music
part-time while working at Dow Chemical for nearly 20 years. After
retiring from Dow, he took up music as a full-time job. He was a hit
overseas long before the word got back to America, as he completed
several successful European tours in conjunction with the two JSP
releases (Double Dues and Too Blues).
With You Need To Live A Little, domestic fans got
to see what all the fuss was about. Garner’s songwriting skills are
impressive. His Blues are contemporary, whether he’s facing the problems
that come with having teenage children (“Four Cars Running”), dealing
with neighborhood gossip (“Don’t Run Talking”), stepping out (“Someone
New”), making a change in lifestyle (“Had To Quit Drinking”), or just
facing the travails of everyday life (“Another Bad Day”). For the
Everyman, all of these issues are a way of life, and no one today has
their finger on the pulse of the Everyman like Garner does.
Garner also pays tribute to his influences, with a
splendid remake of Silas Hogan’s “Rats & Roaches In My Kitchen,”
assisted by Sonny Landreth’s gorgeous slide guitar, and “Keep On Playing
The Blues,” which honors Bluesmen past and present. “Miracles of Time”
is a soul/pop ballad, and the title cut is a jazzy word of encouragement
to those mired in work and misery. “The Preacher Man” is a searing
indictment of those who hide their misdeeds behind religion. “Nobody’s
Special” is reminiscent of the “talking blues” songs he did on his first
couple of releases, and the funky “Shak Bully” is actually a remake of a
song from Too Blues.
Garner’s guitar work is flashy, but concise. His vocals
are warm and friendly. The musicians on hand include Landreth, Willie
Weeks (bass), David Torkanowsky (keyboards), Kip Bacque (guitar), Brian
Jones (drums), Richard Comeaux (steel guitar), and the White Trash
Garner’s tenure with PolyGram was somewhat checkered.
His follow-up, Baton Rouge, was only released in Europe (but
picked up by Evidence in 1999). He later signed with Ruf and released a
couple of nice studio CDs, plus a live release, all of which were
available domestically. He recovered from successful triple bypass
surgery a couple of years ago and recently released a new disc that’s,
of course, only available overseas.
It might take a little effort to find You Need To
Live A Little, but it’s well worth seeking out.