Phantom Blues Band – Blues For Breakfast
This 12-song album’s proceeds will be donated to musician Mike Finnigan’s School of Music at the Stiefel Theater in Salina, Kansas. Mike, a studio musician & member of the Phantom Blues Band (often backed Taj Mahal among other artists) passed away in 2021.
Dedicated to Mike it features guests such as Bonnie Raitt (vocals on “Country Boy”), Curtis Salgado (vocals/harmonica on “Laughin’ & Clownin’” & “I Know You Don’t Love Me”), Ruthie Foster & Mike himself on track 5 vocals/organ — “OK, I Admit It.”
The PR says it’s a tribute to the “fallen” Finnigan – but I beg to differ. I think it’s a tribute to the “risen” Mr. Finnigan. This is an excellent tune by Mike & a wonderful one to remember him by. Great idea & fitting to include a song by him.
Produced by keyboardist Jim Pugh for his Little Village label Blues For Breakfast (Drops July 4) is not gritty blues like T Bone Walker or Howlin’ Wolf or other juke-joint veterans but polished blues like the Fabulous Thunderbirds (Kim Wilson), Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Savoy Brown, Canned Heat – with glorious sax solos, precise vocals, barrelhouse piano smoke & sparks flying from lead guitars.
It’s blues that gets under the skin a little faster than it gets into your feet. But no doubt, it’s all danceable, slinky, smooth & seductive. “She’s Into Something,” is a cool breeze of blues that blows through an electric fan aimed at your sweaty face as you guzzle your third icy Pabst.
This band backed Taj Mahal through 2 Grammy wins & felt they could stand on their own – and they do. It’s a resilient unit that supported many name acts through the years with allegiance & camaraderie.
These blues contain ingredients less part of the true raw blues of the 30s & 40s, but it’s filled with the spices needed to capture younger ears to the genre. The subject matter isn’t as destitute, lonely, or bittersweet as vintage blues. And righteously so.
The handsome 6-panel CD has liner notes with color photos. Band credits — background vocals by Ruthie Foster & rhythm guitar by Tony Chin (“Move On Up”). Beth Styne background vocals (“Still Be Friends”), Organ solo by Kelly Finnigan (“I Know You Don’t Love Me”).
The PBB is Larry Fulcher (bass/vocals), Tony Braunagel (drums/percussion), Johnny Lee Schell (guitar/vocals), Joe Sublett (sax), Les Lovitt (trumpet) & piano/organ (Jim Pugh).
It’s an interesting, powerful consistent set that doesn’t have a single blemish. The songs never appear as blues knock-off studio sour mash but as potent bourbon-flavored little classics – especially the Curtis Salgado track with the burning harmonica solo. Purely delicious & strong.
The band assails itself first class on each tune – nothing commercially sweet or diluted for the masses. “Steppin’ Up In Class,” has a raunchy sax solo. Great band. Nothing more to be said.
Photo courtesy of the band website. CD available @ https://thephantombluesband.com/