Blues Bytes


February 2022

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The Love Light Orchestra
Leave The Light On
Nola Blue Records

The Love Light Orchestra

I first heard The Love Light Orchestra about five years ago on the Beale Street Caravan podcast, which captured them in performance in Memphis. I was not familiar with them prior to hearing that performance, but I was blown away by their sound, which revives the classic blues made popular by Bobby “Blue” Bland, B.B. King, and Junior Parker in the ’50s and ’60s.

The nine-piece band includes guitarist Joe Restivo, trumpeter/arranger Marc Franklin, saxophonist Kirk Smothers, and a host of other Memphis-area musicians, and they are fronted by one of the premier soul-blues vocalists currently practicing in John Németh. Leave The Light On (Nola Blue Records) is the band’s dynamite second recording and their first in the studio, with ten selections, nine originals and one cover.

The opening track, Restivo’s “Time Is Fading Fast,” puts the full orchestra on glorious display. It’s a track that would have been a smooth fit on juke boxes back in the day. Németh’s “Come On Moon” is a smoldering slow burner which is right in the singer’s wheelhouse and features some crisp fretwork from Restivo, and Franklin’s “Give Me A Break” is an old school rhumba, while the uptempo “I Must Confess” (written by Restivo) should get folks on the dance floor.

The album’s lone cover is “3 O’Clock Blues,” B.B. King’s first hit (written by Lowell Fulson), which gets a fresh musical arrangement with a bit of a Latin flair that works really well. Németh penned the next two tracks. “After All” is a blues ballad showcase for his powerful vocal, and “Tricklin’ Down” is an irresistible blues shuffle.

Franklin’s “Open Book” has a vintage rock/soul feel and the title track is a sparkling boogie woogie shuffle that grooves along at a brisk pace. The closer, “Follow The Queen,” is a brassy swinger that closes this fine album on a definite high note.

The Love Light Orchestra does Memphis music proud with this stellar release. Based on Leave The Light On and their excellent 2017 debut (recorded live at Memphis’s Bar DKDC), the spirits of Bland and King are alive and well in the Bluff City.

--- Graham Clarke



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