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John Lee Sanders- Live At Rock Beach
World Blue Productions
I first encountered John Lee Sanders back in 1995 when I saw him on tour in the UK with the slide guitar maestro Roy Rogers and his Delta Rhythm Kings, where he was playing some powerful tenor sax, and I was very impressed with the extra dimension that he gave to the Rogers band. This twenty-one track double disc was recorded in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada where Louisiana-born Sanders is now based. The band and the audience were packed into a recording studio, and it sounds as though great fun was being had by all present. The original idea was to film a DVD and Sanders was so pleased with the sound that he decided to release the session as a compact disc and I for one am glad that he did.
Sanders has surrounded himself with some very impressive Canada based musicians and vocalist, who between them have performed with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Bo Diddley, John Hammond, Buddy Guy, Lowell Fulson, Freddie King, the Rolling Stones, John Lee Hooker, and Tina Turner. The majority of the lead vocals are from Sanders, as well as playing piano and tenor sax, but on this highly recommended set he gives his outstanding fellow performers plenty of space to express their own personalities - the mark of a good band leader
This disc is an entertaining and well-balanced mix of blues, Gospel, soul, love songs and ballads all performed with equal commitment and energy. There are ten original compositions, some co-written by his brother Chip, alongside material from, among others, Earl King, Percy Mayfield, Long John Baldry, (to whom the disc is dedicated), Johnny Cash and Louis Jordan. The vocals from Sanders are distinctively gutsy and heartfelt throughout, and on “I’d Rather Go Blind” from the pens of Ellington Jordon and Billy foster, he is joined by the much in demand vocalist Kathi McDonald. This slow paced soulful ballad is one of the many highlights, and I just wish there could have been more titles with this outstandingly charismatic and engaging performer.
Sanders writes commanding original material and in 2004 his song “Foreclose on the House of Love” was nominated for song of the year at the W.C. Handy Awards. The version here swings along at a dynamic pace while Baldry’s “Midnight in New Orleans” has this impressive band as tight as you could possibly get – with a tenor sax solo from Sanders that adds even more energy to this already highly charged outfit.
This band of Tim Porter (guitar), Dennis Marcenko (bass), Darryl Havers (Hammond Organ and accordion), Chris Nordquist (drums), and Rob Bracken (harmonica) are equally at home playing slow atmospheric ballads or racing along at a dynamic pace, and all playing important roles on this outstandingly entertaining set. Sanders proves himself not only an inventive and skilled musician, but a bandleader and arranger of some importance. I certainly hope there is more to come from this outfit and I shall keep an eye out for the DVD.
Rating: 10 – Bob Tilling Blues in Britain Magazine
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