It's hard enough to find a contemporary blues record with a decent vocalist, so it is quite special to encounter one with two. As the title boldly states, Double Strike by the Andy T Band, features a pair of veteran blues singers, Nick Nixon and Alabama Mike (Michael A. Benjamin), though the circumstances surrounding the production is bittersweet.
Guitarist Andy Talamantez aka Andy T has been around the blues circuit for over twenty years, and since 2011, his association with vocalist Nick Nixon has yielded three acclaimed releases. Due to health related issues, this would be the last recording for Nixon, as Alabama Mike now takes over as singer in the band. Equally excellent vocalists with notable variances in their style, Nixon coming from the rhythm and blues tradition, and Alabama Mike steeped in gospel and soul, both are authentic blues singers. Recorded in Austin, Texas, assisted by co-producer Anson Funderburgh, who also sits in on guitar, the musicians' obvious ability to swing showcases the talents of the vocalists, while maintaining sharp performance authority.
The sessions are evenly divided, each singer presented on six numbers, with one instrumental. Alabama Mike gets the opening nod, tearing into the house rocker "I Want You So Bad," his high tenor accompanied perfectly by the tasty guitar licks and appropriate horn chart. The inspired organ by Larry van Loon sets the tone on "Somebody Like You," as Mike goes back to church. Keeping the organ on the frontline, Mike Flanigin takes over the instrument on the big band blues "'Sad Times," while the originals "Doin' Hard Time," and "Dream About You," show diversity in tempos and moods. Tenor man Kaz Kazanoff penned the New Orleans shaded "Where Did Our Love Go Wrong," reaching into the Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew songbook for inspiration. On all of the mentioned tracks, Alabama Mike showed that he has the voice to cover the wide spectrum of musical tendencies that encompasses the blues.
Nick Nixon, who is also an accomplished guitarist, has been an integral part of the Nashville blues scene since the 1960's, and his teaming up with Andy T for three albums solidified his credentials. Though participation on these sessions was cut short due to illness, Nixon gave it his all, and shone brightly on his interpretations. "Deep Inside," has that laid back Jimmy Reed feel to it, with Greg Izor adding the right touch of harmonica backing. Nixon covers two songs by the late great Chuck Willis, the renowned "I Feel So Bad," and "Juanita," which is done in a pure Texas blues manner. There is a Louisiana rumba feel to "Drunk Or Sober," whereas "I Was Gonna Leave You," leans into vintage rhythm and blues.
It shows a lot of resolution and class for Andy T to present both vocalists under two separate situations, on one record. It is an honorable opportunity for Nick Nixon to retire with dignity, doing what he loves best, and a welcoming gesture for Alabama Mike, as he steps into the spotlight. This record stands as a space in time when two blues singers joined at an emotional confluence, and sang their hearts out.
I Want You So Bad; Somebody Like You; Deep Inside; Sweet Thing; I Feel
So Bad; Juanita; Mudslide; Sad Times; Doin’ Hard Time; Drunk Or Sober;
I Was Gonna Leave You; Dream About You; Where Did Our Love Go
Andy T: guitar; Anson Funderburgh: guitar (1, 9, 11, 13); Alabama
Mike: vocals ( 1, 2, 8, 9, 12, 13); Nick Nixon: vocals (3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11)
Larry van Loon: piano, Hammond B3 organ; Mike Flanigin: Hammond
B3 (8); Johnny Bradley: string bass, electric bass; Jim Klingler: drums;
Greg Izor: harmonica (3); Kaz Kazanov: tenor sax; John Mills: baritone
sax; Al Gomez: trumpet (6, 11, 13).