HeavyDrunk – Holy Water
4142 Music – 2019
13 tracks; 58 minutes
HeavyDrunk is a band from Tennessee, this is their third album and the debut release on new label 4142 Records. The band takes its name from a putdown of a musician that he did not rate by the late ‘Gatemouth’ Brown but there should be no such negative comments about this album which is chock-full of good tunes and arrangements. Frontman, guitarist, singer (and restaurant owner by day) Rob Robinson wrote all bar two of the tunes here in collaboration with fellow guitarist Will Beeman, Jackson Nance, Joseph Shackleton and Eddie Wilson.
The band is a large configuration with Rob, Will and Kurt Stowe on guitars, Bill Ferri or Brian Allen on bass, Bernard Bell or Dave Diefenthal on drums, Erik Bikales on keys, James Hooker on piano, Tyler Summers on sax and Roy Agee on trombone; backing vocals come from Will Beeman, Renée Armand, Gina Pittman, Maureen Murphy and Nicki Connely. The band’s résumés include Prince, Keb’ Mo’, Hoyt Axton and Michael Jackson.
The CD opens with a heavy rock riff which proves deceptive as the backing vocals and horns riffing behind the band then create a big, soulful sound on “If I Loved You Hard Enough” as Rob recounts a dysfunctional love affair, opening with the memorable line “I dragged her by the hair of her head and dragged her across the Piggly Wiggly parking lot”. Rob’s rough and tough vocal style works well on that track but adapts equally well to “Walking To The Mission In The Rain”, a tale of a Southern small town where a preacher is telling people they are going to hell while kids are playing hopscotch.
“Heavydrunk Holywater” follows, a quiet ballad about the passing of Rob’s grandmother who played piano in the local Baptist church. When he went to visit her former home all that remained was a piano and that brought back some of the memories that are evoked here. Backed mainly by piano and fine backing vocals Tyler adds subtle sax embellishments to make a fine, reflective song. You can imagine the dance floor filling up for the rocking “One Dancing Fool” while the quirky “I Can’t Be Satisfied” tells the story of a fleeting relationship with a girl who ran a food truck at campgrounds, her chicken coops hanging from the truck.
“Keeping Up With The Kid” is a short and bright tune about the arrival in the band of young and talented guitarist Will Beeman before another slower tune which urges people to get “High On Love” rather than drugs; piano leads the tune but the horns and backing vocalists make their entrance as the song builds. “Memphis” is the standout cut on the album, the backing vocals adding a gospel feel to a lovely song with a full band production. Lyrically the song mixes images of Memphis as a girl and as a town: “Memphis likes blues and BBQ, she’s got great big legs, oh she’s definitely full of attitude. She wants to ride the Mississippi down to New Orleans”. A fine trombone adds the icing to the cake. Rob then shows a humorous side to his writing with the Barry White pastiche “Somebody’s Got To Take Them Panties Off” which makes you smile but also has great vocals and a superb sax solo on the outro. The funky “Pick You Up Along The Way” is about just getting in the car and driving away with an intense guitar solo to accompany you on the journey.
The two covers appear together towards the end of the album. “Slave” is one of the Stones’ less well-known tunes, a track on 1981’s Tattoo You which HeavyDrunk like because of Charlie Watts’ drumming. This version has plenty of backing vocals from the ladies over a heavy funk backing. “Midnight In Harlem” is Mike Mattison’s song recorded by Tedeschi Trucks on their Revelator album. HeavyDrunk’s version starts with some free-form guitar and drums before the familiar refrain kicks in with one of the girls sharing the vocals with Rob. In this extended version there is room for some delicate slide guitar which gives Derek a run for his money! The album closes with Rob wondering what has happened to someone he loved years ago and hoping that she has been able to “Shine On”. It’s a fine song with some fiery guitar over delicate piano accompaniment.
If you are fond of Southern-influenced bands like Delaney & Bonnie with horns and gospel-infused vocals then you should check this disc out! It certainly gets a strong recommendation from this reviewer.