April 23, 2010 by Steve Jones, Crossroads Blues Society
In my continuous quest to listen first, research second when I get a new band’s CD, I was a bit taken aback when I found out Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings were not a southern blues band; they hail from Ohio and were the winners of the 2009 River City Ohio Blues competition. I can see why they won- the band oozes with musical goodness!
Long Tall Deb is Deb Landolt, who is the lead vocalist. She has a gritty, controlled vocal approach that I really love. She makes the music sound like you are sitting in your favorite East Texas roadhouse, sucking down some frosty long neck beers and listening to very cool music. Backing her up is Richey B on lead and rhythm guitar, Melvin Powe on bass, Doug Oscard on percussion, and Michael Hill on backing vocals. Michael Gilliland appears on two cuts on hard and Max Lewis is on accordion on another track. Background vocals come from band members and, on one track, 4 girlfriends of the band. These guys are tight and make you feel good all lover as you listen to them.
This is a CD filled with all original music. Landolt has her hand in all but one track, which was written by Hill who does also does the guitar work on that one track. The CD begins with the lyrics, “Sitting outside with a shot of drambuie, contemplating love in the moonlight…” and I was hooked. Okay, so I am a sucker for sultry voiced women who like to drink scotch based liquor while prancing around half naked at night; guys latch on to that sort of visual imagery! Seriously though, the gravelly authentic vocals and driving guitar and background beat grab you by the collar and just don’t let go. “Overlooked” is the title of the opening track and it is one of the best of a group of all good tracks! “Lay My Body Down” opens up with some intentional scratchy sounds of vocals and a national steel guitar (with a little slide to boot) as if we’re listening to an old 78 RPM record; the entire first minute of the song plays out this way. The track switches over to a full blow modern sound after that opening minute, with Ritchy B’s guitar throbbing out the repetitive beat and Deb’s vocals sounding so gravelly you’d think she would need a shovel to lay them out. Gillilands’ harp is featured on this track, and he and the guitar run through a very cool instrumental duet about 2/3 of the way through the song.
The faster stuff is all great, but the slow blues like “What Kind of Man” also gives off powerful, burning feelings; Deb sings like a caged animal whose emotions are being barely held in check. Superb stuff here! She closes with Hill’s track with him on acoustic and electric guitar. It’s a soft, ballady track, offering up a nice change of pace to close out the CD with. I’d also be remiss not to mention the song “Chef Jen’s Kitchen.” An homage to her good buddy Chef Jennifer Earl, it’s a bouncy and bubbly cut with a bit of a Cajun flair with the accordion adding sauce and spice to the band. Deb shows off a little Marcia Ball-like flavor with this food and kitchen inspired track.
Only good stuff is packed into these eleven tracks. I enjoyed this CD whole-heartedly and recommend it to any one liking their blues served up hot and spicy with some superb rough and tumble female vocals. If this CD is any indication, Deb and the band are destined for bigger and better things!
Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.