Raise Your Hands reviewed by Denny Gibson

Solid! That word entered my head the instant I heard the snare drum snap that starts of the first track of Raise Your Hands and it stuck with me throughout that first listen. It comes back on every repeat listen and sometimes when I just think about this album. Yep, I’m pretty sure solid is the right word to describe Deb Landolt’s second studio effort.

Thanks to my minor support of the Kickstarter project that helped birth this CD, I got to listen to the finished product a little ahead of its official release. An email arrived on Thanksgiving eve with a link to the MP3 files. The next morning, I took them with me on the drive to a holiday feast with friends. I hit play as I settled onto I-71 and got slapped by that snare before I could set the cruise control. The bass punch came half a second later and we were rolling.

And we kept rolling. There are twelve tracks on the CD; All but two written by Deb and a collaborator or three. When the last one finished, I realized, with a certain amount of surprise, that I had not mentally noted a weak spot. I almost always listen to a new CD straight through but it seems that more often than not a track or two will register as something I just may skip during replays. That didn’t happen here and subsequent listens verified that I had not just slept through a dud. All the tunes are keepers and they offer plenty of the ”soul, gospel and swamp” that Long Tall Deb is known for. They’re rarely sharply separated but are, instead, deliciously stirred together. The title track is a bit swampy, tastes a lot like gospel, and is filled with soul. The wonderful “To Find His Home” is gospel of the highest order but even it takes a little stroll through the swamp as it gets cooking. The two covers are well chosen. The closing track is Tom Waits’ “New Coat of Paint”. The other cover, “Muddy Jesus”, is an very cool tune by Austin based guitarist Ian Moore.

There is a solid set of talent to go with that solid set of material. In addition to Deb, I counted twenty-five musicians listed in the credits. Drummer Jan Roll and bassist Melvin Powe provided the snap and punch that got my attention at start up and they form the rhythm section for all original tunes. Guitarists David Clo and Sean Carney also appear on all the originals as does keyboardist John Popovich.

I’ve mentioned just five names which means another twenty of Deb’s friends make guest appearances on Raise Your Hands. Names that I recognized include Colin John, Damon Fowler, Jimmy Thackery, & Reese Wynans and I probably should have recognized a lot more. In the Kickstarter updates that Deb occasionally sent as recording progressed, it was apparent that she was working hard but having fun, too. One look at the list of musicians she shared the studio with makes it obvious that having fun was practically unavoidable.

But it is Deb’s voice that drives the album. It is, of course, like everything else here, solid. It is also powerful. I’ve seen her voice described as powerful but not overpowering. Good description. You never get the feeling that she’s holding back but you always have the feeling that there’s more available. Same with emotion. The celebration of “Train to Tucson” and the relief of “Finally Forgot Your Name” come from different ends of the emotion scale and Deb gets them both just right. I think that’s called soulful.

Reviewed by Denny Gibson, November 28, 2012