The Paul deLay Band
Nice & Strong CD Review
Evidence 26091, 11 tracks, 47 minutes

by Tony Glover

You don't find many blues albums these days that celebrate women--especially for their character as much as their physique--that's just one thing that sets NICE & STRONG apart. An instrumental called "Punchy" is the closing track here--and it nicely encapsulates and sums up the sound/feel of the whole set. A tight, cooking band with Hammond organ, solid guitar and sax, led by an energetic harpman romps through some original jump blues tunes, steering clear of the endless recycling of blues cliches.

Paul deLay is a West coast bluesman (Portland based), which shows in his jazz/jump combo approach to writing and arranging--he recalls the jazzier side of William Clarke, if you need a reference. An evocative singer, he's got chops to burn, with a facile ease on both diatonic and chromatic harmonicas that outstrips the field. He knows his way around the chromatic, uses the button and plays all over the ax, as opposed to most harpmen who just use it to do slow blues in D. Crediting the CD to the deLay Band emphasizes the importance of the unit rather than the frontman--they lock together well, and frequently when a solo starts it takes a while to figure out whether it's harp, sax or organ you're hearing. There's a fair amount of harmony riffing going on as well and it's obvious these guys enjoying playing together.

This is deLay's 2nd album on Evidence since his release from prison on a drug bust (with characteristic irony, he says: "how many dealers you know who rode the bus?"), and again features original material. Delay has a refreshingly sardonic eye, and turns some nice phrases with songs about the nitty-gritty of grown up relationships. "She Doesn't Work That Way" portrays two settled down guys talking 'bout their women, deLay is celebrating his. "Love On A Roll" is another glad-I-got-you exuberant number, as is the title track as well.

His sardonic side comes out in "$14 In The Bank" and "I Know You Got Another Man". The latter begins with the singer chiding a cheating woman, but as the tune progresses you realize it's all in his head, even tho he doesn't know it.

"Too Old To Scold" is another preachy number with a twist on the end..."don't end up like me" he says, voice breaking. There's a nice fat room sound to most of the album, the only track with any real effects is the title tune, where it sounds like there's an octave pedal in the loop. It's not all jumping mid-tempo rides however, the groove slows down on a lovely heartfelt lost love piece, "I'm Gonna Miss Talking To You". It's got a Muscle Shoals feel, and deLays vocal reaches deep inside. This is music of a man talking about the real shit here, and a nice change of pace--an album where a guy's more glad than sad...

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