Upon first listen I heard a faint resemblance of early Fabulous Thunderbirds, but this unit has a more rootsy soulful approach. While the singing is generously hard-edged & whiskey drenched — the uninitiated won’t yet hear a distinctive a vocal as Kim Wilson, Mason Ruffner or Stevie Ray Vaughan. But no matter, the tradition in this music is thrilling & Brian Templeton’s vocals are wound-tight, the pipes have steam & the coffee is hot.
That said, The Proven Ones, nominated for blues awards & with former members from numerous name bands, have compiled a reliable 12-track, 48-minute sophomore blues storm in You Ain’t Done, (drops April 17th – Gulf Coast Records).
“Gone to Stay,” “You Ain’t Done,” & “Already Gone,” are hot tickets. Dipped slightly in the blues gumbo of horn-based blues bands like Ten Wheel Drive, & Mother Earth. Wisely, they update the genre & make it palatable to a younger audience.
At times, I even hear a genuine growl reminiscent of England’s late blues legend Long John Baldry. It’s a well-conceived LP. The songs & horns dare I say it – on most tracks have punch & were arranged by Joe McCarthy & Chris Mercer. Every nuance, note & solo, well-played & impeccably recorded.
The band: Kid Ramos (guitar), Brian Templeton (vocals, harmonica), Anthony Geraci (keyboards), Willie J. Campbell (bass) & Jimi Bott (drums) includes Joe McCarthy (trumpet), Chris Mercer (tenor Sax), Mike Zito (acoustic guitar), Norma Honjosa & LaRhonda Steele (BGV).
Track 6 is graced by guest vocalist Ruthie Foster with Brian & it’s exceptional. “Whom My Soul Loves,” reminded me of early Delaney & Bonnie (“Comin’ Home”).
The lyric titles are typical blues & elementary. Is that bad? Maybe not. The lyrics are used liberally & surrounded by superb playing. It can be forgiven – but that is a single weakness. They need to go deeper into the lyrics, get creative, more challenging subjects. Especially in light of their fine blues music. The guitars & vocalist already have the performance magic.
True blues isn’t always aggressive & upbeat. A good example is found in Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, John Mayall, John Campbell, & Savoy Brown. The band teeters at being too upbeat & commercial. But, they don’t.
They skillfully negotiate away from that edge. Brian’s vocals have muscle – he just needs to sing words with more depth. Make the words mean something that hasn’t been sung before.
Winners: “I Ain’t Good For Nothin’” is beautiful. Kid Ramos steps up with a laid-back good time lead vocal. Superb despite its vintage tempo.
“Final Dress,” is a great blues-rocker. Blistering Templeton vocal & this is exquisite Proven Ones. Should’ve been track 1.
The well-made LP has wonderful musicianship. The Proven Ones has the potential for Canned Heat richness not Fabulous Thunderbirds’ polish. The band has respect & acknowledgments – they need to maintain it.
Because I know…they ain’t done.
Produced by Jimi Bott & Mike Zito with Guy Hale the CD is available at the band’s website. https://www.theprovenones.com/