Feels Real Strong by The Gary Kendall Band

47 Records

3.5 stars

If you’re a blues fan and the name Gary Kendall sounds familiar to you, it’s because he’s “a veteran Canadian bassist, vocalist, songwriter, band leader and member of Downchild Blues Band”, not to mention a multiple Maple Blues Award winner. Kendall’s latest project is a marvelous collection of danceable, positively upbeat blues, zydeco and rockabilly-infused songs presented with exuberant enthusiasm on his second solo album, Feels Real Strong.

The Gary Kendall Band’s stellar line-up includes Wayne “Shakey” Dagenais, formerly of the Stan Street Band, on piano (whose Professor Longhair influenced keyboards really dazzle), organ and back-up vocals; Darran Poole – also a member of Fathead – on lead & rhythm guitar, fiddle and back-up vocals; Tyler Burgess (Stompin’ Tom Connors/The Downchild Blues Band) on drums, harmonica and back-up vocals; Downchild’s Mike Fitzpatrick on drums; and Gary adds lead vocals, electric bass and rhythm guitar. Recorded in Toronto with the help of six additional musicians including Jim Casson, Suzie Vinnick, “Same Day” Ray Walsh, Pat Carey, Howard Moore and Steve Donald, Feels Real Strong feels like it will probably earn Kendall another Maple Blues Award or two at the very least!

This musical assortment has 12 tracks of solid, boot-stomping boogie tunes almost entirely written by Kendall. It opens with “Real Good Night”, and while this track doesn’t possess a particularly distinctive vocal performance, it’s a mid-tempo, hip-swaying, warm-up, Texas-style blues rock song. “When You Tell Me” is the only song not written by Kendall (C. Wall), but it has a sassy, Robert Gordon-reminiscent, rockabilly dance sensibility with a brilliant keyboard solo from Dagenais. “That Thing” reminded me of The Stray Cats’ sound in the early 80’s with its rollicking piano & harmonica and prominent bass, and made me dance around my living room. Kendall cools things down a bit with the title track, “Feels Real Strong”, a lovey-dovey ballad perfect for waltzing with your honey. The infectious “Sugaree” (one of my favourites) transports you to the heart of Louisiana Cajun country with the help of “Same Day” Ray Walsh’s accordion & rubboard, while “Here To Stay” invokes memories of the soundtrack for the movie Tin Cup, and draws a comparison to Joe Ely.

Slide guitar and piano stand out memorably on the very likeable “Rainy Night in Hogtown” and “Terrified Blues” is an unadulterated, A-1 blues ballad. The rocking fine country blues shaker, “Deep In My Heart” offers more outstanding piano and the exceptional “Streeta Groove” ends the album with a powerfully, sexy blues growl that leaves you wanting more.

If Gary Kendall were a highly formidable vocalist, I’d have given this album an extra star but as it stands, it’s an extremely respectable and pleasurable trip. You’ll turn your living room into a way cool, rockin’ roadhouse when you put Feels Real Strong in your CD player or iPod! You can get your copy (and Kendall’s first solo album, Dusty & Pearl) through Gary c/o 47 Records, Silverbirch Productions, CD Baby and iTunes.

The Toronto based Gary Kendall Band (http://www.garykendall.com) is currently playing every week at a Sunday Blues matinee, along with special guests, at Hollywood on the Queensway in Toronto. Gary has a busy summer lined up playing with Downchild Blues Band, The Maple Blues Revue, Chuck Jackson’s Big Blues Revue, Jimmy Hall and The Swingin’ Blackjacks. As a member of the Kingston Blues Society, I would like to go on record as saying that The Gary Kendall Band would be an excellent choice for an upcoming act at one of our special shows. These are consummate professionals who shouldn’t be missed!

1 Comment

  1. Ms. Lucy says:

    Hey:) I love the guy- Thanks for the heads-up! Great post- love it:)

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