Grant Dermody – Behind the Sun
This is Grant Dermody’s 5th solo LP. Basically, a Louisiana blues collection with splashes of zydeco, Mississippi-Chicago-blues & gospel. It’s recorded pristinely & accessible even to people who are not blues aficionados. The musicians are all Louisiana-based & they deliciously articulate each performance without compromising the raw contours, edgy spirited roots of the genre. It isn’t juke joint bruised, primitive, or overly dramatic.
The late Paul Butterfield would’ve approved. Grant Dermody’s harmonica resonates in his fashion. At the same time, despite how good the artists in England interpret the blues, they don’t absorb the “land” atmosphere & mood in the dirt. That’s what’s lacking. Most foreign blues interpreters succeed with their own degree of comfort but not with the accentuation of the “land” – John Mayall, Graham Bond, Long John Baldry, Duster Bennett types & the California entity like Al Wilson’s Canned Heat. All credible as blues entertainers — but not ideal as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, or even Paul Butterfield.
But Grant (co-producer) could ignite a slow night at a juke joint with his 15-cut Behind the Sun (Drops Oct 21–Independent). This 50-minute LP finds Grant’s voice with a profusion of “striking low down” the blues guitar notes spray everywhere. If the blues guitar can wail & burn & the singer has a thin unexpressive voice – it’s not going to work. Grant’s does. His original “Forgive Me,” & Otis Rush’s “So Many Roads,” perk like an old pot of java on a black iron stove.
Love songs need sincerity, rock songs need energy, but the blues need to seethe as they negotiate the lonely backroads of vulnerability, melancholy & life while watching how long that white ash on the end of Pop’s cheap cigar will hold on. Holding on is the root of most blues. To love, your sanity & or your life.
Grant’s harmonica has a Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) melodic tang. What’s important is that the music isn’t embellished by trickery, half-baked ideas, or bombastic turns. There’s an innate elegance to Grant’s showcase. The tonality is mature, not gritty but instinctively filled with substance — each tune dazzles & not sound like the expiration date passed.
Grant makes it accessible. Others come close – Barry Goldberg Reunion, Butterfield, Mayall, Mike Bloomfield & Cassandra Wilson. It’s not tough-skinned like Janis Joplin which is a blues dependent on showmanship. Grant’s not concerned with the fire as much as the quality of the smoke. The guitar doesn’t always blister though “Learn To Treat me Right,” sizzles.
Sometimes sparks don’t come from technique but from how you put your soul into your work. Highlights – Don’t Boss Me,” “Footsteps In the Hall,” “Tell Me,” “Mourning Dove,” “Honest I Do,” & the songs mentioned.
Musicians – Dirk Powell (guitar/piano/vocals/bass/drums/producer), Lee Allen Zeno (bass), Gerard St. Julien (drums), Corey Ledet (accordion), Teka Briscoe & Ahyris Navarre (vocals).
Photo by Terri Fensel. CD @ https://www.grantdermody.com/
Enjoy our previous coverage here: REVIEW: Grant Dermody’s “My Dony” is Spirited and Authentic Blues