Phantom Blues Band, Footprints

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
An off-handedly irresistible set from some old pros.

This is the second, and considerably more consistent, album Taj Mahal's backup band has done away from the boss. They're a virtual jukebox of '60s blues, r&b, soul, gospel, rock, ska and jazz styles, and they blend genres and shift gears seamlessly. “Barnyard Blues,” a big-city blues original, and “Chills and Fever,” an r&b reworking of some obscure Hank Thompson honky-tonk swing, show what they do best, Mike Finnigan's hard-edged vocals riding atop surging organ (Finnigan again) and horns (Joe Sublet on sax, Darrell Leonard on trumpet) and stinging guitar from Denny Freeman. They get torchy on “A Cottage for Sale,” churchy on “A Fool for You,” and goofy on Rufus Thomas'”Fried Chicken” and Jimmy Soul's “My Wife Can't Cook.” Guitarist Larry Fulcher takes them to the Delta for the slide-guitar “When Malindy Sings.” These old pros may not be doing anything you haven't heard before, but they're doing it with tremendous skill, savvy and spirit. It's an off-handedly irresistible set that you'll likely find yourself returning to more often than you first expected.