Don’t Give Up On Me
BluesWax Rating: 8 out of 10
Rhythm AND Blues
Josh Smith’s newest release, Don’t Give Up On Me, is one sweet-sounding, highly polished album, bringing everything to the table but the kitchen sink. This amazing band (singer/guitarist Josh Smith, bassist Calvin Turner, drummer Carl Lemar Carter, and keyboardist Charles Jones), with its horn and string section, is on the same level as a small chamber orchestra. I like the way Smith injects his old-school blues guitar styling and smoky vocals into the smooth mix of R&B sound generated by the rest of the band. With a couple of exceptions, the songs that don’t bring to mind the hip, soul-laced soundtracks of the Seventies, like Shaft and Super Fly, remind me of the classic soul artists like Lou Rawls and Teddy Pendergrass.
If you’ve ever seen the film Pretty in Pink, you’ll understand what I mean when I say, “I’ve Always Been,” is a song Duckies everywhere can identify with. When Smith sings, “Before you put down the phone, I’ll be outside of your home, right away,” it sounds kind of sweet and “stalker-y” at the same time. But either way, I joyously soak up the funky Quincy Jones sound featuring Kim Wilson on harmonica as it takes its turn in the playlist sequence. And then, when that finishes it’s chill time with “That Ain’t Me,” which would have been a great track to record with the late, great Isaac Hayes. Smith plays this song of deception and betrayal, slow and meaningful, with a nice assortment of cool little licks.
Previously, I mentioned there were a couple of exceptions to the rest of the album. The first, “That Ain’t Love,” another song about abruptly lost love, pushes the horn and strings aside so Smith can focus more on his killer guitar playing. This one is hard-driving down- home blues with a rockabilly edge. It’s a fun one. The second, “Sneaky Joe Turner,” the only instrumental on the album, is a jazzy horn-propelled composition tossed on top of Smiths focused electric blues licks and the rich mellow sound of the string section, making for a very relaxed listening experience.
The album is quite enjoyable and I would encourage R&B fans to check it out and give it a listen.
Phillip Smith is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
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