Music! Music! Music! will cement the revelatory impression guitarist Charlie Hunter and vocalist Lucy Woodward leave upon attendees of their concerts. Having repaired to the studio in November 2018, the duo maximized the spontaneity of those proceedings through the enlistment of drummer Derrek Phillips. adding a spark that further ignited the keen chemistry the pair had honed on stage.
In recent years, Charlie Hunter has revealed a predilection for the blues that may very well have led to this fruitful partnership. It certainly stands him in good stead on the vintage R&B of Ruth Brown's "I Don't Know" and even more so during the antique likes of Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul of a Man." On a particularly saucy take of Bessie Smith's "You've Been a Good Ole Wagon," he simultaneously digs a groove Phillips deepens with his kit, then elaborates on the melody lines with as much relish as Woodward. As on the sultry title track, the latter embraces the role of earthy chanteuse, extracting and articulating the emotions at the core of the material without any discernible affectation.
The breakdown late in "Soul of a Man" is just the first instance of how the singer's voice functions as a musical instrument in and of itself. On "Can't Let Go," the vocalist not only elucidates the words, but stretches notes, injects fills and mirrors Hunter's fast fretting on his 'Big 6' guitar. In marked contrast to her staccato approach there, fully in keeping with the beat of "Plain Gold Ring," Lucy Woodward floats above the guitar and percussion, the soft timbres of her voice rising and falling as she anticipates the chord progression and its accompanying accents, the end effect of which is wholly hypnotic.
The unity of the Hunter/Woodward/Phillips trio couldn't be more apparent than on "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." Bonded as the individuals are, each nevertheless emphasizes a separate component of the tune, always in proportion to what the others are doing. So, the emotion carried in the lyrics unfolds through the woman's rapturous delivery, punctuated with syncopated guitaring and assertive drum work. The action is even more kinetic on Terence Trent D'Arby's "Wishing Well" which effectively serves as a gateway to the album's homestretch, a passage that accelerates through "Be My Husband," Hunter, Woodward and Phillips enacting an audio dance here that could hardly sound more delightful or compelling.
The range of this album's eleven tracks, each of which clocks in at roughly four to seven minutes, belies the sparse accompaniment of unadorned vocals. Spacious sound quality emanates from Dave McNair's mastering of the recordings overseen by Stephen Lee Price in High Point, North Carolina: these two technical experts capture what is a surprisingly visceral impact given the spare arrangements. "Angel Eyes," for instance, might prompt a thumbnail description of Music! Music! Music! as a collection of torch songs with a kick, but such a glib summary hardly does justice to the combustion of talent quietly ablaze on this record.
Soul Of A Man; Can't Let Go; Plain Gold Ring; Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood; The One I Love Is Gone; Wishing Well; Be My Husband; I Don't Know; Angel Eyes; You've Been A Good Ole Wagon; Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In).
Charlie Hunter: guitar; Lucy Woodward: vocals; Derrek C. Phillips: drums.
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