REVIEW: “Back To Paradise – A Tulsa Tribute to Okie Music” Smokes Without Being Hillbilly


Back To Paradise – A Tulsa Tribute to Okie Music – Horton Records

I’m always interested in compilations/tribute LPs that celebrate an artist, place, or event. It allows artists who aren’t famous to get noticed.

However, the lead track J.J. Cale’s “I’ll Make Love To You Anytime,” & later Don White’s “Helluva Deal,” have radiance but – why oh why would Paul Benjaman imitate J.J. Cale on each cut? The guitar is tasty throughout, the groove is excellent, Paul indeed has a good voice but don’t emulate J.J. Cale. What’s the point? Even Eric Clapton didn’t sound like Cale on “After Midnight.”

I happen to like Paul’s voice; he should’ve just pulled back a tad from the Cale tonalites & phrasing. However, “Ride Me High,” is exceptional. Probably the best on the collection – the instrumental break percolates. Paul sounds more like himself on the wonderful Steve Pryor song “Misery Kickin’ In”- he asserts himself well.

Created by Tulsa musicians the 17-tracks were recorded in 4-days at Leon Russell’s famed Paradise Studio at Grand Lake (the first LP recorded there since 1978). Laid down mostly live, with few overdubs with a core group it took 20 musicians to make this blossom & it did.

Back To Paradise – A Tulsa Tribute to Okie Music (Horton – drops Aug 28) is commendable.

“Crossing Over,” (Steve Ripley song) sung in a Don Nix style by John Fullbright is good but his take on Hoyt Axton’s “Jealous Man,” is well-carved out.

Dustin Pittsley’s “Blind Man,” (Tom Skinner/Don Morris) sounds Tulsa driven. Beautiful cut. “Sometimes you gotta have faith…like a blind man standing in the middle of the road.” Great lyric.

I’m from the Northeast, so, I was confused by the LP title. Okie music? I didn’t think any of these tunes sound Okie-like unless it’s just because of the term as an informal definition: native/inhabitant of Oklahoma. But most would think the historical definition: a migrant agricultural worker from Oklahoma; forced to leave home during the Depression. No songs here reflect that.

“Tramp,” (Lowell Fulson) by Branjae cooks in a Bar-Kays, Muscle Shoals brass soul groove. Not something I’d associate with Oklahoma music. I don’t recall that state being a 60s soul hub. Maybe I’m wrong. Say Oklahoma — I think Reba.

But I’ll admit – this CD has a rural homegrown richness. Musicians are proficient. They lay down notes with expertise. My not being familiar with the soulful currents of Tulsa may also be simply a lack of record companies not emphasizing that music from Tulsa, opting for Philly, Memphis & Chicago.

The cuts smoke & they’re not hillbilly. They’re soulful, rock, have poignancy & the music isn’t performed as a look back but a reminder that it was good then, it’s good now. All vocalists are interesting.

This CD could be popped in & let ride through to the end. No disappointments.

The over an hour program was produced by Jason Weinheimer & Them Tulsa Boys.

Available at Amazon & Bandcamp:

Leave a Reply!