In a day when many blues CDs make the listener think "... been there, done that, heard it before ...," it's refreshing to have an independent disc come out of nowhere that gives a nice kick in the pants to the blues genre.
Take Me Back is the third release from Southern California bandleader Nelsen Adelard. His first of three releases, Blues Got a Hold On Me, received a favorable review in Blues Bytes five years ago; it's obvious that Adelard has improved considerably since then.
Adelard is a strong blues vocalist, with a somewhat raspy but powerful voice. He's also a talented multi-instrumentalist, at times playing guitar, harmonica, piano and trumpet. While he's backed by a good, basic blues ensemble, Take Me Back is really Adelard's show from start to finish.
Take Me Back opens with Adelard blowing mean Chi-style harp on the mid-tempo title cut, later adding pleasant piano work to the mix while Steve Gabil fills in on guitar.
"Sugar Pie" starts with a tight, energetic horn intro building into a happy, upbeat catchy foot-tapper, with a solid sax solo from Mark Norris. For my money, this one's the highlight of the disc. It's Southern California jump-style blues at its best.
Adelard switches to piano for the New Orleans-style tune, "Call On Me," which could easily fit well into the Marcia Ball songbook. Like most of the 11 songs on Take Me Back, it's an Adelard original. Gabil throws in a tasteful guitar solo for good measure.
On one of the few covers, Adelard shows off his harp prowess on the Clifton Chenier swamp blues, "Big Mamou," on which Norris gets an extended sax solo.
It's boogie woogie time on "The Professor Is In," as Adelard pounds the 88s during a short (2:14) instrumental romp that also gives Norris another chance to stretch out on the sax. A subsequent smokin' instrumental, "Back at Jax," is an uptempo shuffle showcasing Adelard's harmonica playing.
The band slows the tempo as Adelard switches back to guitar for the mournful "Blues All Night," a Chicago-style number that recalls many beer-soaked nights in Windy City blues joints.
A song that's easy to sing along to, and will remain in your head for weeks to come, is the fine version of Allen Toussaint's "Brickyard Blues."
The disc closes with the acoustic number, "Blues Got a Hold On Me," with Adelard and background singer Dee Dee O'Malley pouring out their vocals over acoustic guitar and harmonica accompaniment.
Take Me Back really took me by surprise, quickly earning a cherished spot on the rotation of discs carried in my car for road trips. Great traveling music. Check it out!
For more info, check the Nelsen Adelard website.
--- Bill Mitchell
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