Vizztone/Shaboo [Release date 02.02.15]
D.A. Foster’s rich baritone sounds as if he’s pouring a life time’s experience into a well chosen set of soul songs. His rich and warm timbre makes the most of a batch of tight arrangements brought to life by a stellar cast of musicians.
‘The Real Thing’ is predicated on Foster’s intuitive phrasing and soulful presence and flows from the sumptuous David Steen penned opener ‘Good Man Bad Thing’ to the closing cover of George Jackson’s ‘Down Home Blues.’
‘The Real Thing’ is an aptly titled, classy r&b and soul album on which D.A. embraces swing, revels on big band arrangements, digs deep for soul balladry and successfully searches for real feel by never straying too far away from the blues.
As a soul singer he’s comparable to Curtis Salgado and when in r&b mode he’s closer to Delbert McClinton. His phrasing reflects his life experience and The Phantom Blues Band and guests bring swagger to bear on the title track and offer a contrasting cool restraint and a soulful horn arrangement on ‘We All Fall Down’.
D.A. attacks the latter with a gritty timbre before hovering over a mellifluous hook with Julie Delgado and Nita Whitaker on bv’s.
This is classy, timeless soul music, on which the vocalist leans into the material with all the panache of someone who has been doing this all his life.
Everything is beautifully paced and nothing is forced, as D.A. makes an emotional connection with Don Robey’s ‘Ain’t Doing Too Bad’ and the band slips into a funky groove. He subtly threads his vocals in between the band’s intricate interplay, a deft horn arrangement and Johnny Lee Schell resonant guitar solo.
The album drops down on the reflective ‘This Time I’m Gone For Good’, as he evokes Lou Rawls, a style he later returns to on the jazzy ‘Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You’. His rich timbre envelops a soulful outing given real poise by Bonnie Raitt guitarist Johnny Lee Schell.
In an age of formularized music, ‘The Real Thing’ is a true soul album that oozes confidence, class and emotion.
D.A. Foster and his band enjoy a telepathic connection and their love of classic soul bubbles up in the grooves and subtle arrangements, and they surprise us at the halfway point with the Muscle Shoals influenced, blue eyed soul of Eddie Hinton on the understated funk of ‘Super Lover’. The horns punch out their parts, Lenny Castro’s percussion sparkles and percolates, and Mike Finnegan’s B3 rises beautifully to shape the outro.
D.A. employs close to the mic phrasing on the funky soul of ‘I Need a Good Woman Bad’ on a great example of the use of space, time and dynamics.
The familiar ‘Slap Bang in the Middle’ is given a celebratory big band arrangement with a call and response section and only a perfunctory finish robs the song of a deserving uplifting outro.
And though he’s less impressive on the Bill Withers ballad ‘You Just Can’t Smile It Away’, it’s a rare blip on a track rescued by Lee Thornburg’s muted trumpet solo over a gentle voiced organ line.
Given D.A Fosters’ biography and the quality of the players, you want this to be a good record. Happily it’s better than that, as D.A. Foster brings his own personality and rich phrasing to bear on a fine album that redefines soul for the modern era. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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