Phantom Blues Band

Phantom Blues Band
Inside Out


By Lady K
September 2012

The Phantom Blues Band is what happens when a bunch of kick-ass ‘studio musicians’ hailing from Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, get together for a recording session, find out they play well together, and just keep hanging out and recording. The first get-together was when they backed-up Taj Mahal on the 1993 Dancing the Blues album – we all know that worked!!!

This talent-heavy band includes Tony Braunagel (drums, percussion); Larry Fulcher (bass, vocals); Mike Finnigan (keyboards, vocals); Darrell Leonard (trumpets); Joe Sublett (saxes); and Johnny Lee Schell (guitars, vocals). The band got a little extra help from Lenny Castro (percussion); Joe Sample (keyboard on “So Far from Heavean”); Denny Freeman (guitar on “Shame, Shame”); and Reed Noble (vocals on “Change”). All of that talent produced a truly enjoyable, ear-pleasing blues album that also includes a taste of jazz, soul, rock, and reggae. Of the 13 tunes recorded on Inside Out, 6 are originals, penned by various Phantom Blues Band members.

The covers on the CD include: “I Can’t Stand It,” an up-tempo rocker by Smokey McAllister; “Little Fernandez” by Dave Bartholomew; “Death Letter” by Eddie J. House Jr.; “Feel Like Goin’ Home” by Charlie Rich; “Boogie-Woogie Country Girl” by Pomus and Ashby (this track is a rocking, swinging, dance-compelling tune); “Shame, Shame” by Jimmie McCracklin (sax is the star on this one); and the mid-tempo rocker “Stone Survivor” by David Egan.

Lady K loved “A Good Time with the Blues;” it’s a swinging tune, with some great bluesy guitar. “I’ve paid my dues and now I’m having a real good time with the blues / When I met the blues it brought goodness to my soul / From Mississippi to Memphis, Chicago to St. Lou, I traveled around the circuit and worn out lots of shoes. The blues is a healer.”

The keyboard takes the lead on the up-tempo “Boogah Man;” a tune that brings back all of those childhood, scared-of-the-dark memories: “When the evening shadow comes flyin’ down / the owls are hootin’ / that’s the comin’ of the Boogah Man. Don’t you wish the night would turn to day? If you love your mama and mind your pap and never try to wiggle out of Granma’s lap, and say your prayers, you’ll never have to worry ‘bout the Boogah man.” (Just stay away from the closet and don’t look under the bed!)

“So Far From Heaven” is a mid-tempo tune providing great blues and some heavy food for thought regarding wars (including more local neighborhood violence) being fought in front of the camera and depicted to all on the evening news. “Shotgun blast in the neighborhood, helicopters flying fast and low / no angels in this town / you cry and you try and you live till you die. Fighting in the name of peace, you can hear people crying / you can see them dying / you can even feel their pain. You say your god got to kill my god / that makes no sense to me / cause how can you kill women and babies and call it a victory?” We don’t need to love each other or embrace each other’s way of life, we just need to get along – no one wins with what’s happening in the world these days.

The hot sax is the star of the mostly instrumental “Where Did My Monkey Go?” The limited vocals are shout-outs of the song title, as the chorus (Lady K, and all listeners, are free to wonder about the title, or to just enjoy the blues . . .)

The Phantom Blues Band is the real deal.

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