Broadway Phil & the Shouters knew they wanted to cover more obscure blues and R&B songs rather than better-known hits when they began planning "Home," their fourth album.
By Laurie Heuston
In the two decades that Broadway Phil & the Shouters have played together, they've been at home with roots blues and R&B. When the bandmates began planning their fourth album, "Home," they knew they wanted to cover more obscure songs rather than better-known hits.
With the exception of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters' 1960 hit "Finger Poppin' Time," the band accomplished its goal.
"Most of them are lesser known," says frontman and harmonica player Phil Newton. "It's just fun finding them and learning them."
Newton and guitarists Jake Thompson and Dave Day, bassist Gary Davis and drummer David Mathieu will unveil the new CD at a show from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at 2Hawk Winery, 2335 N. Phoenix Road, Medford.
Along with their somewhat unknown stature, the 14 tracks on "Home" are all from the late '50s through the '60s and come from Southern-born, gospel and blues artists, such as Blind Willie Johnson ("The Soul of a Man") and Junior Parker ("Dolly Bee").
"We're digging at the root stock of American music," Newton says.
"Dolly Bee" may be the most obscure title on the album, recorded in 1957 by harmonica player and vocalist Parker and session musicians at Duke Records in Houston. It was the B side to a better-known single, "Next Time You See Me."
" 'Dolly Bee' is a bit odd," Newton says. "It sounds like a country song. There are no blues chords, and it doesn't go to a blues progression. But it exemplifies a time when blues became R&B, which became soul ... which was killed by disco.
"And Parker is sort of that touchstone performer. He started as a blues musician with Howlin' Wolf, then went into the early period of R&B and then soul."
Drummer Mathieu coined the CD's title, "Home." The tracks were recorded at Hartkop Productions in Central Point and produced by Howard Snow. Keyboard player Tom Hollaway, banjo player Hartkop and vocalist Lynda Morrison (Mercy) made contributions to the CD, along with the Shouters' horn section featuring Gordon Greenley on saxophones, Bradley Saunders on trumpet and Tyler Newman and Gary Nelson on trombones.
The CD cover includes a photograph of Newton taken on a street in downtown Oakland, Calif. — the place where he first heard music by B.B. King, Parker and others on radio stations KDIA and KJAZ.
The CD's production was kept spare and transparent, Newton says. The band didn't want the process to interfere with the feel of the songs.
"What's challenging is that this early stuff was recorded with one or two mics, and the musicians were playing the songs note-perfect in one take," he says. "These were relatively large bands, and they were able to record music astonishingly well. It still blows my mind. No one has ever equaled the best of these performers.
"There were certainly lots of bad performances, and there still are," Newton says. "But with the recording technology that we have today, there's now no excuse."
Of the 14 tracks, Newton says his favorites are the James Carr songs "These Ain't Raindrops" and "You Didn't Know It But You Had Me," Johnny Adams' "You Made a New Man Out of Me" and Howard Tate's "Burning Fire."
"And that weird 'Dolly Bee song,' " he says. "I found it challenging to sing, and Junior Parker is my favorite vocalist."