Before The Devil Steals Your Soul
This CD came to me prior before we finalized our
previous issue but I just didn't have the time
to get to it, instead loading it to my music
folder for later listening. As I daily randomize
my music to get me through the day, occasionally
a song from this album would come up, and I'd be
so impressed with the female lead singer that
I'd always stop what I was doing to check out
what band and what album was playing.
So far that was my introduction to the Southern
California-based ensemble Blue Largo,
with their new album being Before The Devil
Steals Your Soul (Coffeegrinds Records).
That female voice that consistently caught my
ear is Alicia Aragon, and she's backed by a
tight band with lots and lots of big sound.
Co-produced by Eric Lieberman and Nathan James,
this is an album with something for everyone.
Opening the disc is stirring, eerie gospel
vocals before launching into the funky "Wash
Away," which then closes with the same vocal
chorus that started the song. Next up is a
pleasant shuffle, "If I Can Make It To Augusta,'
with good horn accompaniment including guest
tenor sax man Jonny Viau.
I'm not sure how to describe "Monrovia," because
there's a whole lot going on here. There's kind
of a mysterious 1950s-era movie soundtrack-ish
sound with a cha-cha beat, big horns, and
outstanding drumming by Marcus Bashore
(coincidentally, a childhood acquaintance of
mine who I've seen once in the last 50 years).
"Same Race" is notable for its extremely
important message. A message that really needs
to be echoed by many of our politicians and
divisive media figures out there. "... We're the
same race, the human race, so please don't tear
us apart ..." That line gets repeated throughout
the song, and really needs to be chanted on the
streets of this divided nation.
The tempo gets kicked into high gear on the
title cut, which starts with a female chorus
singing down by the riverside and accompanied
only by hand clapping, before a short acoustic
guitar riff is followed by a rollicking gospel
stomper. "Bodas De Oro" is an instrumental that
sounds straight out of Havana circa 1955, with
pianist Taryn "T-Bird" Donath and guitarist Eric
Lieberman both highlighted here. Yeah, you're
right --- this album has something for just
"I'm Alive" is an upbeat funky blues with a nice
guitar solo by Lieberman, good vocals from Ms.
Aragon, and tasteful sax playing from Eddie
Croft and Dave Castel De Oro. Guaranteed to have
you up and dancing around the room. The pace
slows considerably for a Ray Charles-esque
blues, "The Long Goodbye," with subtle jazzy
guitar from Lieberman.
The band goes Motown on us with their very nice
version of Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes Of the
Brokenhearted." They admit in the liner notes
that this one took the whole band out of their
respective comfort zones but they really nail
it, especially the horns and Ms. Donath's
underlying piano accompaniment. Ms Aragon really
ramps up her vocals towards the end, pumping in
a final shot of energy. She then segues nicely
into a slow, jazzy Nina Simone tune, "Feeling
Good," with both of these last two tunes showing
off her vocal versatility. Lieberman also does a
mighty fine job on guitar here.
"Grinder's Groove" is our second instrumental of
the album, a slow-paced shuffle spotlighting
Lieberman's guitar work and another appearance
on tenor sax by Viau. (I'm glad that Lieberman
gave credit to the late great Clarence Hollimon
in the liner notes for this song, in addition to
other guitar influences. Clarence was one of the
absolute best, both as a guitarist and as a
person, and I miss him very much.) "Five To
Eight" again takes us back several decades, a
jazzy swing tune with sassy vocals by Ms.
Aragon. Ms. Donath is turned loose on the
ivories at the midpoint of the song with a nice
solo followed by equally-good sax and guitar
"Every Time You Call My Name" is a jumping love
song that Lieberman wrote for Ms. Aragon, and it
gets presented here with plenty of emotion. And
a couple of killer sax solos by Crost and Castel
De Oro, too. Closing this very nice album is a
jazzy cover of the Nat Adderley classic, "Work
Song," presented here as an instrumental romper
that gives every band member their place in the
Before The Devil Steals Your Soul brings
together a lot of diverse styles and lots of
different musicians in a tight, cohesive package
that will tickle even the most jaded music fan.
Highly recommended and certainly worth tracking
--- Bill Mitchell