Mighty Sam McClain

Mighty Sam McClain
Betcha Don’t Know

Mighty Music

By Art Tipaldi
December 2009

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It’s always been the fusion of jam-packed horn juice and soulful testifying that distinguishes Mighty Sam McClain’s blues from the rest in New England. After a six-year recording hiatus, his latest record Betcha Don't Know, shows that this combination is still at his core.

McClain’s roots matured in the Southern gospel traditions of testifying from the heart and surrendering to the moment. Surrounded by the punch of the six-man Mighty Horns, co-producer Pat Herlehy’s diverse guitar styles and the keyboard work of Michael Sucher and Jim MacDougall, McClain engulfs listeners with thirteen originals that broadcast messages of love, acceptance, repentance and honesty.

From the prodigious horn blast at the start of “Can’t Stop The Funk,” McClain dances the song through the funky landscape of wah-wah guitars and Sly Stone keys. “Lift Me Up” follows with McClain’s pleas for redemption backed by Caleb Bronz’s funky drumming.

McClain’s love ballads include “Just Wanna Be,” “My Love Will Never Die,” and “Hold On To Your Dream.” Each song affirms soul-to-soul love and self-respect. The title cut emphasizes Herlehy’s jazzy, Wes Montgomeryesque guitar style flirting with McClain’s voice and perfect piano accents, while “What You Want Me to Do” has McClain joining a John Lee Hooker boogie with a horn filled, Memphis soul bridge.

On three songs, McClain successfully ties his soul stylings to today’s hip hop/R&B. “Never Go Away” starts off as a lush ballad with McClain on bended knee, but by mid-song rapper Jesse D. Lannoo shows that McClain’s message of hope can be grafted onto today’s youthful pulse. That same partnership also works on “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” and “Free,” where Lannoo raps about society’s modern ills.

This marriage of soul and contemporary hip hop works because both singers’ messages cover the same ground -- tears and pain, and love and hope in the world.

www.mightysam.com

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