The world the GBB articulates on this intriguing record ...quot; in the working manâ€™s anthem â€œOverboard,â€ about the ongoing act of trying to keep oneâ€™s head above water, as well as songs like â€œHold Out â€™Til Monday,â€ â€œBack at School,â€ â€œHeartâ€™s Not in Itâ€ and â€œShopping Cartâ€ ...quot; will be readily familiar to most listeners, because itâ€™s the world we live in today. These themes yanked from everyday life in contemporary America interact wondrously with the gritty grooves and smoky feel theyâ€™ve carried forward from the â€™60s and â€™70s R&B records on which theyâ€™ve based their sound. Itâ€™s a sound to which these four natural-born musicians are the rightful heirs, considering the Gamble siblings grew up in Tuscumbia, Alabama, within spitting distance of Southern soul mecca Muscle Shoals, while Edmaiston hails from Troy, Tennessee, north of Memphis, which is the hometown of bass player Blake Rhea, who joined the group late in 2003.
Youâ€™ll find their indigenous inspirations displayed proudly and impeccably on Continuator and in the GBBâ€™s scintillating live performances ...quot; flavors cooked up and marinated to perfection several decades ago at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Memphisâ€™ Stax Volt and Hi, Allen Toussaintâ€™s joint in New Orleans and wherever Ray Charles and his band set up.
â€œMy dad had the Genius of Ray Charles and Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music, along with some Jimmy Smith albums and a bunch of Verve Forecast stuff,â€ Al recalls, â€œand I wore them out. I grew up in the â€™80s, and I couldnâ€™t relate to the music on the radio, so those records were my salvation.â€
But this band isnâ€™t interested in merely replicating the past or geographically confining its reference points, although they readily acknowledge that theyâ€™re paying
tribute to the great soul acts. â€œWe try to further the heritage,â€ says Edmaiston. When asked to name his faves, Art starts with Led Zeppelin and John Coltrane, then throws in Louie Prima ...quot; â€œI dig music with life in it,â€ he says, ...quot; while Rhea acknowledges a fondness for Latin and metal. The groupâ€™s music touches on all these things, but, â€œWe keep things in a soulful mindset,â€ is how Art puts it. The new albumâ€™s â€œEast Parkway Rundown,â€ for example, features a super-vibey, near-psychedelic intermingling of sax and Hammond B-3 flavors redolent of Traffic circa â€œFreedom Rider,â€ and the timbre of Alâ€™s vocals recall Dr. John at his most natural, but also present is a wry, knowing soulfulness that was the trademark of the late, great Little Feat auteur Lowell George. Thereâ€™s a lot going on in these fat grooves and sharply drawn vignettes.
The sessions took place at Memphisâ€™ famed Ardent Studios, with producer/engineer/ mixer Jeff Powell (Big Star, Afghan Whigs, North Mississippi Allstars) at the helm. â€œI love this band and am very proud of this record,â€ says Powell. â€œRather than doing everything in time to a click track and fixing every mistake to make it Ã¢â‚¬Ëœperfect,â€™ we went for a live feeling ...quot; a soulful, Memphis-style behind-the-beat feel, with a sound that jumps out of the speakers. I think you can hear how much fun we had making it, and these guys are some of the finest musicians I've ever worked with.â€
Returning to the backstory, all four members of the GBB lineup started playing their respective instruments early on and went on to log countless hours and miles working as sidemen in blues and soul bands on the chitlin circuit. There were sidetrips along the way, as the Gamble boys both graduated from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, separated by five years, with Al getting his degree in international relations. The logical next step for him was the service, but his decision to pursue career as a U.S. Army officer was irrevocably altered one evening in the early â€™90s, when Al and his wife to be went to hear some music at B.B. Kingâ€™s Blues Club on Beale Street. Al doesnâ€™t know exactly what hit him that evening ...quot; he has to think a minute to even remember who was playing (it was Little Milton) ...quot; but he had an epiphany, and that epiphany put him on a path that led to the GBB and a reputation among fellow musicians as the young cat who is most skillfully carrying on the legacy of Booker T Jones and Spooner Oldham on the B-3, the Wurlitzer and the Fender Rhodes.
Both Al and Chad did stints in regionally heralded Shreveport band the Bluebirds (though not at the same time). Al has backed up artists such as Chris Cain, Johnnie Bassett, the Barkays, Irma Thomas, Bo Diddley, Syl Johnson, Eric Gales, Rufus Thomas and the Memphis Horns, while Chad has played behind Rufus Thomas, the Memphis Horns, Eddie Floyd, Chris Cain, Johnnie Bassett, Preston Shannon and Jimmy Thackery.
Edmaistonâ€™s travels took him from the V.F.W. in Lake Charles, Louisiana, to Harlemâ€™s Apollo Theatre and all the way to Japan while touring as a member of the Bobby â€œBlueâ€ Bland Orchestra. He made it to Puerto Rico and Scandinavia with Preston Shannon and back across the U.S. and Canada with Mason Ruffner. Artâ€™s done time
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in the Beale Street clubs, much of it in the house band at B.B. Kingâ€™s; heâ€™s jammed with Ivan Neville, Jon Fishman of Phish, the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Robert Walterâ€™s 20th Congress, Papa Grows Funk and Jim Belushi; and shared stages with everyone from Levon Helm to Wayne Newton, from the Coasters to Leslie Gore. His sax work can be heard on the Johnny Langâ€™s Grammy-winning Lie to Me.
The band started working up material soon after forming, and in a few months they were recording their debut album, 10 Lbs. of Hum. The record was cut on the fly and a tight budget, but it still indicated the intriguing mix of the past and the present that they were developing, while the choice of covers ...quot; including Toussaintâ€™s â€œEverything I Doâ€ and a take on Holland-Dozier-Hollandâ€™s â€œDonâ€™t Do Itâ€ patterned on that of The Band ...quot; provided a sense of their rock-solid musical foundation. In July 2003 they beat out 1,200 bands to win the Billboard-sponsored Independent Musicians World Series in Nashville, which got them $35,000 in gear. Two months later they released their second album (and first for Memphis indie Archer), Back to the Bottom. It was a crisply recorded affair that showed the development of their songwriting, which was given further context by the presence of inventive interpretations of Randy Newmanâ€™s â€œLittle Criminalsâ€ and Gary Wrightâ€™s â€œLove Is Alive.â€
Back to the Bottom got the band noticed by certain publications with their ears to the ground, like Paste, which gave the record four stars and compared the band to Booker T & the MGâ€™s and the Meters. Expect the aptly titled Continuator to further up the ante for a savvy, surefooted band that, as the title indicates, continues to follow its own path. As Al succinctly puts it, â€œWe let the music tell us where to go.â€ For this super-tasty band, the music is proving to be one helluva guide.
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2. Hold Out 'Til Monday
3. Back at School
4. E. Parkway Rundown
5. Heart's Not In It
6. Right Direction
8. Durty Walt
9. Shopping Cart
10. Theme From Little Champ
11. Threw It All Away
12. All Skate
13. Best Defense