The Özdemirs – Introducing the Özdemirs
Continental Europe Records CD 96
10 songs – 34 minutes
The world of blues comes in all shades these days, but traditionalists are really going to love this disc from The Özdemirs, a family band based out of Münster, Germany. While many of their peers prefer setting their amps on 11 and producing high-energy blues-rock, these guys do it old-school, delivering deep-in-the-pocket grooves that will be getting you out of your chair and heading straight to the dance floor.
Featuring a core ensemble that includes Erkan Özdemir, a fixture on the European blues scene since the mid-‘90s as the longtime bassist for Texas transplant Memo Gonzalez & the Bluescasters, and his sons – guitarist/vocalist Kenan and drummer Levant, trio have become one of the most in-demand backing units for visiting U.S. talent – including Johnny Rawls, Sugaray Rayford, Tad Robinson, Mike Morgan, Trudy Lynn, Kirk Fletcher and Angela Brown — since establishing themselves as major players while touring the continent themselves.
Erkan’s sons grew up listening to a mix of ‘50s and ‘60s blues along with James Brown, Al Green, The Meters and Bootsy Collins, too, and all of those influences come to the fore in the roux they deliver here. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Carlo Miori at Good Sound Studio in Rivalta di Torino, Italy, and including horns captured by Igor Prado at his studio in São Paulo, Brazil.
The lineup’s augmented by Simon Oslender on Wurlitzer and Hammond organs and Christian Dozzler on piano with Bostonian “Sax” Gordon Beadle and Brazilians Bira Junior and Bruno Belasco on horns. Illaria Audino provides backing vocals on two tracks. Texas blues legend Trudy serves as a special guest vocalist on one cut, and Duke Robillard penned the liner notes, too.
An interesting mix of nine well-reinvented covers and a single original, the action kicks off with two numbers that first saw the light of day in 1971. The action kicks off with a rousing take of guitar great Lowell Fulson’s “Teach Me.” Kenan’s bass runs add funky flair. Kenan’s six-string attack would have made the originator smile, and his vocals throughout are both powerful and delivered in perfectly unaccented English. The Özdemirs then mine a treasure with “Tired of My Tears.” Penned by R&B artist Jimmy Lewis, it’s had little play since serving as the obscure B-side for Ray Charles’ ABC single, “What Am I Living For.”
A slashing blues-rock original, Kenan’s “That’s How It Is” is delivered from the confused standpoint of a man whose lady has asked him to leave is begging him to stay as he prepares to go. The mood brights and the timbre quiets for a silky smooth take of Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful” before the band takes on “Tell Me What’s on Your Mind,” the first of two covers penned by The Meters’ co-founder, guitarist Leo Nocentelli. Delivered with horns, it contains plenty of Big Easy flair.
Up next, the Özdemirs get in the way-back machine for a take on Shorty Long’s “Burnt Toast & Black Coffee,” a stinging, but soulful rocker that first appeared on RCA Victor in the mid-‘50s. “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down,” a monster 1972 hit for Ann Peebles on Hi, works well when delivered from the male perspective before shifting to “Midnight Blues,” a horn-powered rocker recorded in 1962 by Charlie Rich. The jewel of the set, “Heap See,” is up next. An early hit for Windy City guitar legend Jimmy Johnson, it’s delivered with class by Trudy Lynn before another Meters standard, the instrumental “Tell Me What’s on Your Mind,” brings the action to a solid close.
Possibly hard to find but definitely a treat, there’s a lot to like about this one!
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