Kentuckiana Blues Society reviews Diamonds On the Desert Floor

Kentuckiana Blues Society Newsletter, March/April 2010
By Les Reynolds

With an ample dose and gracious nod to her dry and dusty West Texas roots, “Long Tall” Deb Landolt and the Drifter Kings, serve up a mix of Delta, Chicago and Texas blues, New Orleans funk and soul that is anything but dry or dusty.

Long Tall Deb & the Drifter Kings give us eleven tunes on their debut CD and although based in Columbus, Ohio now, the music is rich in southern heritage. The band is anchored by Deb’s sizzling and soulful, husky voice, as she sometimes sounds a bit like Gina Leigh, Delta Moon’s former lead vocalist. Always powerful but never overpowering, this singer can push without breaking–and sound great the whole time.

Joined by the rhythm section of bassist Melvin Powe and drummer Doug Oscard, guitarist Richey B and guest musicians Michael Gilliland (blues harp) and Max Lewis (accordion), Deb is the heart and soul of this group as not only the lead vocalist, but also a songwriter. Michael Hill did an excellent job as producer and also joins as guitarist on the final track, also lending backing vocals throughout the CD.

All tunes were written by Deb and the band with some co-writing by Hill, Patrick McLaughlin and Damian Knapp ; and while there is no title track per se, “Lay My Body Down” (holding the fourth spot on the song list) contains perhaps some of the best lyrics: “I’ve come a long way to get where I’m going. One hundred miles–just a million more. I’ve got this fire, it burns so bright. Shines like a diamond on the desert floor. All alone I am smiling. Ain’t had no crazy fights in a while. I will remain on this highway until I lay my body down…”

If LTD were to have a “signature sound”, that tune would have to be the one as it brings all the best ingredients together for a swampy, tight, and gritty song also featuring Richey B’s greasy slide guitar. The opening track “Overlooked” and “House on Fire” (10) would also fit into that category. The latter, again featuring R.B.’s snakey slide guitar, could be classified as a hypnotic deep-South Bapticostal blues toe-tapper that gradually builds until Deb is wailing and testifying like an old-time evangelist.

Diamonds are initially formed under incredible pressure and volcanic heat. Cutting and polishing creates the special sparkle, often called “fire” which gives it its brilliance and beauty. Give this CD a listen, and you’ll agree the title is more than just a little apropos.