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ESOEBO – IV  (Knot Reel Records)


Chuck McDowell (acoustic guitar, vocals) & Gail Burnett (vocals, cello) are Esoebo. With them supported by an amazing set of Nashville sessionmen in the form of producer Phil Madeira (acoustic, electric, lap steel guitar, piano, B3 Organ), Will Kimbrough (electric, acoustic guitar, mandolin), Chris Donohue (upright, electric bass), Bryan Owings and Dennis Holt, drums, and on one track, “For The Money” Bill Kitchen plays electric guitar you have a real team. Esoebo’s style of music is certainly eclectic as country, swing, jazz and rock are mixed together. From the sound of it McDowell is a big lover of the country story-ballad. This is no better illustrated than on “Some Things Said”, a co-write with Jonathan Richardson the feel of the melody isn’t that distant from (though quicker paced) “Long Black Veil”. It’s a good ‘un! With it sweetly warmed in harmony vocals and a relentless rhythm section everything slots together nicely.  

McDowell is the major vocalist, and with his bouncy style the music is never less than creative, and with Burnett and pickers with him ever step of the way a feel good factor is never far away; and, on top of the spirited playing there is also the humour of McDowell’s lyrics. As found on “For The Money”, and with a snappy beat with drums, lap steel, mandolin etc thrown into the pot to simmer, “A Little Bit Like Saint Paul” (sublime) is loaded in energy, and is arguably the best recording on the record. Now there is a common thread, energy the album has bushels of it! It continues right to the last as “The River” rocks in and out of the shadows; if ever a record sounded like everyone was having fun making it this is it. On this particular track Burnett enjoys more exposure than at any other time, and she doesn't waste the opportunity. 

Four of the tracks are co-writes with Madeira. Reflective closing track loaded in B3 Organ “Suffer No More” and southern steeped jaunty tale “Jubilee” among them. McDowell’s trio of solo creations are most interesting, and as expected diverse. “Hardwired For Trouble” is a funky soul warmed little number while “Hot Stuff” is a swing jazz affair, and there is the cello, electric guitar percussion driven “Scary”. With its hooky chorus and general warmth the listener has little choice but be drawn to the song! Producer Phil Madeira has a great track record, both as a producer and musician (he was with Emmylou Harris for a number of years), and has a couple of wonderful projects of his own available. Go check him and, Esoebo out. Don't linger, just do it. 

Maurice Hope  

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May 2018

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