Backtrack Blues Band, Your Baby Has Left, album review, Rock and Blues Muse

By Mike O’Cull

The Backtrack Blues Band is a crew of well-travelled veteran musicians who have another hot new album Your Baby Has Left, that’s set for release on April 3rd, 2020 on the VizzTone imprint. Based in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, Backtrack has been putting original blues down since 1980 and is now one of the state’s longest running live acts. Your Baby Has Left is Backtrack’s seventh album and is full of the group’s signature blend of harp, guitar, and vocals that’s kept it going since the days of disco.

Produced by George A. Harris, the band cut these new tracks to two-inch analog tape at Big 3 Studios in St Petersburg, Florida and Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The sound is an amalgam of Chicago and Texas blues styles stretched across eight new original songs and one cover from Jimmy Reed.

The five-piece Backtrack Blues Band has carved out a solid reputation over the years and have appeared with major artists including Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Gregg Allman, Koko Taylor, Johnny Winter, John Lee Hooker, and Robert Cray. The lineup of Sonny Charles on harmonica and vocals. Kid Royal on lead guitar and vocals, Little Johnny Walter on rhythm guitar, Joe Bencomo on drums, and Stick Davis on bass is a tight and capable unit that has performed prestigious sets at the award-winning Tampa Bay Blues Festival, Notodden International Blues Festival, in Norway, Utah Blues Festival, Color Line Blues Cruise, and many other fabulous venues. Also, Backtrack Blues Band was the winner of the “Coolest Blues Song of 2019” Contest run by Detroit’s Big City Blues Magazine. Clearly, these cats have it together.

Backtrack gets things going with “Best Friend’s Grave (Joy Joy Joy), which is the song that won the award from Big City Blues. It’s a joyous shuffle despite its title and sports some hot guitar work from Kid Royal. Next up is the title cut “Your Baby Has Left,” which is a big blast of hard-edged boogie absolutely drenched in Sonny Charles’ ripping harp playing. The entire band drives the pocket into the John Lee Hooker zone, keeps it there, and a good time is had by all.

“Killin’ Time” is a more laid-back groove with a touch of The Fabulous Thunderbirds to It. Charles’ harp is again gritty and toneful and fills every bit of space it’s given with the real-deal blues. Jimmy Reed’s “Natural Born Lover” is the lone cover song on Your Baby Has Left and is a wonderful example of how to play Reed’s style of post-war blues. Every member of Backtrack gets deep into Jimmy’s style of shuffle makes this one sound as fresh as the day it was written.

“She Might Get Mad” is a popping jump blues with a great swing feel that issues a stern warning to any man considering acting the fool in his relationship. It’s a dancefloor dynamo with a humorous set of lyrics topped off with outstanding performances from each band member. Consider it a reminder of everything cool about old-school blues. The record closes with “Times Is Hard,” a powerful slow blues number that winds the party down properly and treats us to some killer saxophone licks in the verses. The band rubs the pocket just right and Charles’ harp and Kid Royal’s guitar speak eloquently to anyone lucky enough to be listening.

Backtrack Blues Band has a winner on its hands with Your Baby Has Left and hardcore blues fans are likely to love every moment of it. The band proudly carries on one of American music’s most vital traditions and adds a few more pages to our nation’s ever-evolving songbook. This is one of the South’s premier groups without a doubt and Your Baby Has Left will quickly earn its keep in your record collection.

Backtrack Blues Band Online