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JD Dominowski doesn't know how incredibly good he is. Maybe that's why he's so good. He has power chops like The Boss and the sensitivity of your favorite folky. 'I'm Ready Now' needed a longing vulnerability that works with, through, and against the rocking guitars and organ. JD nailed it. I'm looking forward to watching JD rise in the local scene, and I won't be surprised at all if he rises right outta here.
Paul Randolph has a well deserved international reputation as a vocalist AND a bass player. He has played all over the world with Jazzanova, and for years he fronted the tightest, funkiest, New Awlins-est band in the Midwest, Mudpuppy. Mudpuppy is a legendary band to Michigan musicians...but I first saw Paul years before Jazzanova or Mudpuppy. He was playing bass with a blues band in a small club in Bay City, Michigan. My friend Keith called me at home and said I HAD to get my ass down to watch this young cat play bass - so I did. Yikes! I followed his career for years as he played bass for Detroit blues diva Zoom - never knowing what an AMAZING singer he is. When he stepped out to front Mudpuppy...well..my goodness! Stunned!! We've been friends for years and I'm thrilled to have him on this project - his performance on 'Gradually Blue' is a revelation. His voice reaches down into the depths of despair and rises to a crescendo of pain. It is a classic display of talent. Paul also has many songwriter and producer credits, and his music can be found all over the webs
I first heard Michelle at an outdoor venue where folks were eating and drinking and paying no attention whatsoever to her force of nature vocal gift that reached out directly to anyone with a soul. I was astounded. She was always in the back of my mind as someone who could bring out the pain in a heartbreak ballad...if I could just write one worthy of her talent. On 'Here, Again' I think we've pulled it off. There is a vocal moment in the outro that still gives me chills.
Brandon Calhoon has a gift - he just does. He opens his mouth to sing and we feel everything the song has to give. He has that thing that great blues and soul singers have - a direct connection to the heart - his AND ours. That's why I wanted him to sing 'A Little Problem' - the song needed a world weary, emotional self awareness, and Brandon BROUGHT it - in addition to his world class vocal chops. I LOVE his performance on this track.
Pictured is MFR and me - he's the rockstar on the right. We've spent a lot of time over the years head-to-head like that. Two musicians, one musical brain. Mike was initially, and for a long time, very well known in my part of the world as a first call guitarist. As his career developed, his intimately, expertly crafted songwriting started getting attention. His solo album 'All My Stories' is one of the best things I'll ever be associated with. What sometimes gets lost is one of my favorite things about MFR - his singing. I LOVE the way he works a lyric. I REALLY love the way he worked my lyrics on 'Get Out'!
I knew Honesty Elliott for years as a singer in cover bands doing all the popular hits - and doing them very, very well. Awesome, but not my favorite cuppa. When I finally got a chance to gig with her she had started doing some very bluesy and soulful tunes. I remember the moment she threw down on Tedeschi's 'Hurts So Bad' at a benefit I was playing with her - the hair on my arms stood on end. It was thrilling - and I knew then that I wanted to work up a song for her. 'You Were The One' was a half finished idea of mine that Honesty, MFR, and I woodshedded and took into Reed Recording Studio as the first tune we recorded for this project. She was a joy to work with and she rendered the tender AND the angry moments in the song to perfection.
Larry McCray is known the world over as one of the best blues singers and guitarists of his generation. He was already a star when I was first starting out, and he was always very generous about inviting me to sit in. He is one of my idols - a world class singer, an amazing guitar player, and a very, very cool guy. I had a blues tune that I thought would be perfect for his gifts. We've been friendly for many years, but I was still nervous about asking such a well known cat to sing and play guitar on my project. 'The Crossing' is kind of a classic blues with a twist - a pre-chorus and chorus. Larry came in and knocked the tune out in a couple takes - what a pro. I am overjoyed that I got to have Larry on one of my songs and I love the interplay between the harp and his kick-ass guitar.
Jen Cass has been in the national folk consciousness for a while. She has a beautiful voice and a way of reaching hearts and souls with her intimate, often heartbreaking songs. I did not know her well, but a few years ago I somewhat brazenly invited myself onto one of her gigs...fortunately we seem to be soulmates and we've been working together ever since. Her own writing is so unique and lovely that I perversely felt I had to pitch her a song a little outside of her usual zone. On 'L.A. River' Jen steps into character and completely inhabits it. Wonderful.
The Barbarossa Brothers. These guys. Damn. Undoubtedly one of the best original bands ever to come out of Mid-Michigan. All three virtuosos, all three generous and cool guys. I've known them since they were teenagers. I've watched while they tightened into a GREAT rhythm section. They write good songs, they sing like they write, and they jam like mothers. So - there is no guest vocalist on this one - just me. I knew that my song 'Wrong Headed Thinkin' was such a personal song (based on a true story) (it really is!)...that I needed to sing it myself. Set in New Orleans, it is the story of a very long night during Jazzfest, and the almost unbelievable adventures (kinda scary, actually) that my buddy Keith and I experienced. The Barbarossa Brothers have all that New Awlins grease - so they were perfect as my guest artists on this track. Loren Kranz had a great suggestion for enhancing the bridge that moved the song forward in a cool way. Too much fun!