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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year
This album is a result of the good Reverend, an ordained minister of The Universal Life Church (google it!), touring through the southern states and encountering some of the divisions that exist in the world at the present time. There are elements of civil rights songs, joyful blues and soul music, and a couple of rather unexpected covers. ‘2017’ is an effective Memphis soul number, with a positive, thought-provoking message set to a classic backing by The Hi Records Rhythm Section, with haunting strings and excellent backing vocals by The Masqueraders, and it is followed up by ‘Hold Hands’, a memorable plea for mutual understanding and respect, with Peter Adams outstanding on Hammond organ. The three part ‘Freedom Suite’ stretches from the a capella civil rights song ‘Uncle Tom’s Prayer’ to the supercharged Memphis funk of ‘We’ve Got To) Come Together’, which quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, with the impassioned ‘Does My Life Matter’ sandwiched between the two. Blueswise, the opener is a simple Mississippi-flavoured down-home number, just Shawn on vocals and harmonica, Chris Roberts on guitar and backing vocals by Sharlotte Gibson and Kenya Hathaway, and several other tracks feature Shawn’s wailing blues harmonica; ‘Ain’t Gonna Name Names’ is a poppy, bluesy number that rides a fine groove. Those aforementioned covers are a very unexpected version of David Bowie’s ‘The Jean Genie’ (which itself drew from The Yardbirds) and a gospel-styled rendition of Nick Lowe’s ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, And Understanding’, which has perhaps the Reverend’s best vocal of the set – and that is really saying something! Recommended.
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