Brother Ray Lemelin – Dark/Out of Phase
11 songs – 65 minutes
Brother Ray Lemelin is an Alberta musician, born and raised in the Eastern townships of Quebec. He has played with or worked with a veritable roster of great blues musicians over many years, including Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Lowell Fulson, and Fenton Robinson. His latest release, Dark/Out of Phase, is an almost-all-acoustic offering, featuring five self-penned tracks, and impressively intriguing interpretations of some classic material from the likes of Muddy Waters, Jimmie Rodgers, and Bill Withers.
Lemelin sings in a gloriously weary but assertive style and plays guitar. He is ably backed by some subtle and intelligent playing from Bob Richardson on bass and backing vocals, Howard Schmenge Carter on accordion and backing vocals and Tim Williams on mando cello, mandolin, electric slide guitar and banjo.
The opening track is Jimmie Rodgers’s “Any Ol’ Time”, which lazily but enticingly slopes off with Lemelin successfully channeling a vocal style from 60 or 70 years ago and some lovely slide guitar from Williams. It is immediately apparent that this is an album to pay close attention to. “Any Ol’ Time” is followed by an even slower track, Ray Bonneville’s “Gust Of Wind”. Lemelin’s original, “Little Boy”, features some lovely banjo playing from Williams, while Carter’s accordion again provides delicate support.
This is not an album with any fast-paced, or even mid-paced numbers. But it is deep, alluring and has a very distinctive world view. It’s also a relaxed album: the shortest song is over four minutes’ long and four of the songs last longer than seven minutes. Bill Withers’s “Grandma’s Hands” eschews the funky elements of the original, focussing instead on the the deep blues heartbeat underlying the song, with superb accordion from Carter and another top notch slide solo from Williams. The instrumental, “Los Hombres Del Norte”, brings Carter’s accordion to the forefront, while the frankly lyrically bleak “Out Of Phase” is redeemed by some fine finger picked guitar and more excellent accordion.
The Latin-tinged “Best Of Friends” benefits from an infectious rhythm, but it’s nothing compared to the dismembering of Muddy’s “You Gonna Take Sick and Die Some of These Days”, which has an airiness and brooding quality of despair that has to be heard to be believed.
The album ends with three self-penned songs, “Really Isn’t Just About Me” with some fine stop-start bass from Richardson and a fascinating Rap verse, the instrumental “Late Night Rendezvous”, which sounds like something one would hear in a Paris boulevard late on a Saturday night, and “Ain’t No Use In Worryin’” (with a neat guitar solo).
Recorded at Slaughter House Studio, in Calgery, Alberta, Dark/Out Of Phase was produced by Lemelin, recorded by Mike Fournier, and mixed by Lemelin and Williams. Together, they capture a great sound.
Dark/Out Of Phase is a beguiling album, with plenty to engage a discerning ear. Warmly recommended.
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