June 13, 2024

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CD review: The Gayle Harrod Band – Temptation – 2023: Video, CD cover

There are bands out there that weave a musical story so vivid that you wind up in the middle of it. Hailing from Baltimore, MD, The Gayle Harrod Band not only understands that but leans into it. The rare, honest, and spell-binding performance that Blues-lovers crave is born of empathy, total commitment, and complete freedom from self-consciousness.

Band leader, vocalist, and songwriter Gayle Harrod achieves that ultimately satisfying level of performance on The Gayle Harrod Band’s debut release, Temptation, due out February 2023.

A blues belter with a powerful, expressive and occasionally gravelly delivery, Gayle Harrod took a lifetime before launching a music career in music. Now in her mid-50s, the Baltimore native makes her recording debut with this soulful set, and one listen will convince you it’s been worth the wait.

Harrod sang in public for the first time with the soul-blues ensemble Triple Shot at age 42 in 2011. In the years since, she’s developed her talent as a member of Blues Deluxe, a group whose act included classic rock, and the blues/R&B outfit, Shakedown.

Now a polished entertainer who’s been mentored by Gaye Adegbalola — the BMA-winning powerhouse who rose to prominence with Saffire – the Uppity Blues Women – and now fronting her own band, which is composed of several major talents from the mid-Atlantic music scene, Gayle’s more than ready to assume her rightful place in the spotlight.

Gayle recorded this one last summer and penned all 12 tunes in the set with a lineup that includes Stan Turk and Buddy Speir on guitars, Brian Simms on keys and Rachelle Danto on harmonica along with a rhythm section composed of bassist Christopher Brown and percussionist Chuck Ferrell. Speir produced and contributes additional keys and bass, too.

Recorded at 38 North Studios in Falls Church, Va., guitarists Sol Roots, Jonathan Sloane and Bobby Thompson make guest appearances along with the Beltway Horns – Greg Boyer (trombone), Brad Clements (trumpet) and Brent Birckhead (alto sax). And Mary Ann Redmond, Dusty Rhodes and The Voices of Faith of the First Baptist Church of Baltimore – Shelley Ensor, Amy S. Taylor, Alice Chase Dorsey, Pamela Grimes, Val Murray, Sharlette L. Taylor, Lenard Foust and Steve Grimes – provide backing vocals.

Fresh and forceful throughout, “Sweet Memphis Man” opens the action atop a funky, medium-paced shuffle with a stop-time arrangement as Harrod describes a case of love at first sight after walking through the doors of a Bluff City nightspot. The mood darkens and beat intensifies for “Come on People,” which urges peace and understanding in troubled times, before the hard-hitting ballad “Baby We’re Through” announces the end of a relationship that should have never started.

The theme continues in the languorous “Temptation” and finds Gayle trapped between an angel and a devil on her shoulders as she tries to make sense of it all before she decides to throw caution to the wind the man under the covers “In the Deep Dark Night” and then requests that he “Bring Me Along” in the uptempo number that follows.

The Delta-infused ballad, “Waiting in the Shadows,” is up next and celebrates finding solace, comfort and love in the arms of someone after a 15-year wait then gives way to the horn-fueled “Break” and rocker “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” which are delivered from the other side of the romance before Harrod hooks up with an ex in “The In Between.” Two more pleasers – the fiery “God Laughed” and sweet “Beautiful Friend” – close the set.

The genuine fun Gayle is having on “In the Deep Dark Night” (a jumpin’ New Orleans second line romp) is contagious. On the haunting, Gospel-inspired Texas Blues “Temptation”, the power and soul of her voice are hair-raising. On “The In Between,” her warmth and vulnerability are reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt. Her voice is at times, thrillingly rocket-powered, a signature blend of grit, gravel, and pure defiance. Yet she also has the ability to summon warm, smoky, velvety tones and has the finesse to draw the listener in with a heartbreaking quiet, confessional intimacy.

I am honestly just so proud of this album. I’ve talked about recording for several years now, but I think my lack of knowledge and fear of failure held me back from actually doing it. Then I lost a very dear friend in early 2020 and very shortly after the world shut down to covid. It was a real wake-up call. I started to realize that if I don’t do this now, I’m never going to do it. So, I started going through all the songs I had written early on and picked a few that I thought were worth revisiting. It’s interesting how looking at an old song with fresh eyes, can give it new life. I used the time during covid to write some new songs and plan the new CD and I made a promise to myself to not only finish it, but to do it right. No shortcuts. The CD was just released February 24th, so I am right now working on promoting that, finding representation, and hopefully putting together some tours in support of it. I’ve really put everything I have into making this CD, heart, soul and wallet. There are three of us really at the core of The Gayle Harrod Band. Chuck Ferrell is one of those folks I met in my early days at the Blues Jam and one of the first people who encouraged me to pursue singing. He’s been one of my dearest friends for almost 25 years and one a Hell of a drummer. When I was first forming the band, I knew that I wanted him, and an amazing local bass player, Dennis Michaels. Dennis recommended Guitarist, Stan Turk. We played together in that format, for a couple of years, mostly as a cover band, trying out some original material here and there. Sadly, Dennis had some health issues and passed away a couple of years ago. The music scene in our area is pretty tough and most serious musicians are playing with multiple bands, so we’ve had a couple of bass players we’ve been using for local gigs, depending on who’s available. When it came time to choose people for the CD, I relied heavily on my producer, Buddy Speir, to help me pick the right people. He Brought in Christopher Brown for the Bass role, and we’ve been using him as often as possible on our live shows ever since. He also brought in local guitar heroes, Sol Roots, Bobby Thompson and Jonathan Sloane to do some solo work, Brian Simms on Keys, and Background Vocals from Mary Ann Redmond and Dusty Rose. On horns we brought in a group of guys we had worked with on a live stream during the pandemic, Greg Boyer on Trombone, Brad Clements on Trumpet and Brent Birckhead on Sax, collectively known as The Beltway Horns. We had a couple of songs that needed harmonica, so I brought in my friend Rachelle Danto. Last, there were a couple of songs that really needed a Gospel feel. I called in my Friend Shelley Ensor who leads the Gospel program at a local college music camp and told her I needed “a couple of vocalists” to do some gospel backups. She rolled into the studio with a full 8-person gospel choir! Buddy, filled in some missing pieces himself on slide guitar, organ and a little bass, – an interview with me said Gayle Harrod.

A rock-solid debut, don’t resist … Temptation is worth a listen! Part of the instant connection she brings to the listener may be inherent in her songwriting. “I don’t know how I functioned or survived all those years without this means of expression,” she says. “My writing is very personal. I dig deep into my own experiences and feelings.”

We recommend that you definitely own all of this musician’s albums and especially this one and enjoy it!

Tracks:

01. Sweet Memphis Man (3:05)
02. Come On People (3:53)
03. Baby We’re Through (4:01)
04. Temptation (4:57)
05. In The Deep Dark Night (2:53)
06. Bring Me Along (3:44)
07. Waiting in the Shadows (3:55)
08. Break (4:03)
09. You’re Gonna Miss Me (3:37)
10. The In Between (4:55)
11. God Laughed (4:10)
12. Beautiful Friend (5:02)

Buy from here – New CD 2023

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