It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited about a new blues band. I always get amped for new releases by the legends, and I try to catch certain guys every time they’re in town (B.B. King, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Chicago’s own Buddy Guy), but new blues artists generally leave me cold.
With the exception of Indigenous and The Chris Duarte Group, I can’t think of anyone I’ve followed for more than a year. I did follow Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who were great, but they left the blues to follow God’s path, whatever that means.
So I was more than happy when I threw on The Congregation‘s debut EP, Not For Sleepin’. I got knocked down due to the amount of Soul Power pouring out of my speakers. Gina Bloom’s pipes are ridiculous. Lady sings the blues, indeed. Not quite on par with Aretha or Billie Holiday, but not too far off. Certainly better than anyone else I’ve heard attempt songs like these in recent years.
My one problem with The Congregation stems from the press release I read about their band. In it, they go through a lot of details about the bands personnel and sound, but they also make a remark so outrageous I must comment.
They make mention of doing music the way Otis Redding did it. Well, that’s a problem for me. I’m all for shooting for the stars and that jazz, but come on. That’s like me running for Jesus. It’s just ludicrous. Otis Redding is the epitome of rhythm and blues in my mind, so to compare ANYONE to the man is blasphemy as far as I’m concerned.
That said, they did it. And when I listened to the music, I wasn’t 100% dissatisfied. That in itself is remarkable. If you take that to mean I enjoyed the record, you are correct. The songs “Save the Wine,” “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” and “He’s Gone” are the highlights of the record for me. The vocals are out of this world, and guitarist/songwriter Charlie Wayne really shines on “Good Man.”
The only song I don’t really enjoy is a cover of The Stooges‘ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” It’s a bit masochistic for my taste. Having a female sing the lyrics doesn’t make the song any better. Much like Dana Fuchs‘ version of “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” from Across the Universe.
The horn section is lights out from top to bottom, as a good soul band should be. I’m sure that in a live setting they all get to show their stuff a but more than they do here, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing them perform.
This release doesn’t drop for a couple weeks, so consider yourself warned. You will be asked to pay money for this EP, and you should hand it over gladly.
- The Congregation hail from Chicago. The band is made up by: Gina Bloom (vocals), Charlie Wayne (guitar), Joe DeBord (bass), Chuck Sansone (keyboards) and Dan Wendt (Drums). The sax/trumpet/trombone combo of Jay St. Germain, Brian Crane and Nick Nottoli finishes off the band’s signature sound.
- Not For Sleepin’ will drop on December 11 at The Congregation’s record release show at Reggie’s Music Joint. Cover is $5. Show starts at 9. 21+ only. They’ll be joined by Winslow and France Jean-Baptiste.
- Hop over to the group’s Bandcamp page for a free download of “He’s Gone.”
The Congregation performing “He’s Gone” at Double Door