Gulf Coast records [Release date 02.08.19]
Billy Price’s ‘Dog Eat Dog’ is a well crafted slice of contemporary soul. This is the peerless soul singer’s 17th album and he surrounds himself with an intuitive band, a killer horn section and special guests including Rick Estrin, Alabama Mike, Jim Pugh and Mike Zito, all brought together by producer Kid Andersen’s svelte touch at his Greaseland studios.
‘Dog Eat Dog’ achieves an unlikely balance between an organic feel and a pristine sonic quality.
The result is an album that flows mellifluously and lets the music breathe. The 12 tracks re-invigorate the soul genre, with shades of Philly, funk, blues, Motown and r&b, with lashing of percussion and the purity of Price’s voice.
Billy Price may be an old school singer, but this vibrant album contemporizes the soul genre. He’s probably never sung better in the studio. His timing and intuitive phrasing taps into an emotive undertow to bring real presence to bear on new soul classics in the making.
His strength is he knows when to hold back and when to fully emote. For example, he’s in Curtis Mayfield mode on one of the album highlights ‘Lose My Number’. And in sharp contrast, he casts himself as a more animated falsetto reaching balladeer on a cover of Willie Dixon’s ‘My Love Will Never Die’.
He enjoys himself on the oohs, aahs and call and response of the Motown influenced “Same Old Heartaches’ and adds a perfect vocal to the deeply wrought funk of ‘Toxicity’.
He rarely wasted a line and draws the listener into an enveloping soulful album that projects him into being one of the most essential soul singers of our time.
The band percolates and grooves behind him as he fills each track with real feel and emotional honesty.
The clear arrangements and tempo changes also suit his unhurried vocal style on a late night sounding album that lingers long after the subtle fade of the closing funky percussive blues of ‘You Gotta Leave’.
‘Working On Your Chain Gang’ is a perfect big horn-led opener that digs deep for a funky soulful groove that showcases Price’s blue eyed soul singing and poignant metaphoric lyrics.
His vocal hovers subtly above a majestic groove, as Kid Andersen adds a telling wah- wah guitar break.
The afore mentioned ‘Lose My Number’ is a poised, cool organ-led and lilting bass driven piece. It’s topped by Price’s clarity of diction and phrasing that drips with the emotion of a spurned lover. It’s timeless piece of music that again evokes Cutis Mayfield.
‘Dog Eat Dog’ is almost the perfect musical mission statement for a roots-rock label that draws on a rich musical past to look to the future. The combination of new material, judiciously chosen covers and an artist capable of delivering it all with style makes this album closer to a new vintage than old wine in new bottles.
Price own musical history includes a 3 year collaboration with Roy Buchanan and an award winning stint with southern soul legend Otis Clay, but this album suggest he has so much more to offer in his own right.
The walking bass line, handclaps and horn stabbed opening to Bobby Byrd’s ‘We’re In Love’ leads us into a sparse big band outing, while the Rick Estrin penned title track is full of his own deep-toned harp over a dirgy percussive groove.
But it’s the veracity of Price’s plaintive vocal – from his Mayfield style phrasing to a scream – that gives the track its impact.
Then there’s the sheer exuberance and infectious hook of ‘All Night Long Cafe’, featuring a guest spot wah-wah solo from Mike Zito.
Everything comes together beautifully on the wonderfully crafted ‘More Than I Need’ which stands out as a natural single. It’s the perfect showcase for Price’s timbre, on a song that had it been released in the early 70’s would certainly have brought him chart success.
As it is ‘Dog Eat Dog’ is a flag bearer for contemporary soul music, a genre that has been on the upswing in the past few years. It’s a great album on which each song supports the greater whole, making it the perfect vehicle for one of the most underrated white boy soul singers of our time. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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