Album Reviews

The Lucky Losers

A Winning Hand

Artist:     The Lucky Losers

Album:     A Winning Hand

Label:     West Tone

Release Date:     06/01/15


Two veteran California blues artists have teamed up to bring back the blues duet. Their appeal is so packed with honest emotion that you can practically see them. Phil Berkowitz (vocals, harmonica) and Cathy Lemons (vocals) can expect a devoted following when both their Bay Area audiences combine to see them. Those who live further east will find this set a winner. When Lemons opens up and lets it rip, every word is immediate and engaging. Berkowitz responds with vitality: no-frills singing and supple, assertive harmonica. Both are strong storytellers, Lemons writing solo songs of hard living, and Berkowitz penning smart, philosophical tunes with collaborator Danny Caron. Their debut album will appeal to fans of blues, jazz and New Orleans funk.

Engineer/producer Kid Andersen spotlights the vocals perfectly, creating constantly interesting tracks, showcasing proven talents like guitar blues legend Steve Freund. Lemons and Berkowitz don’t just sing Allen Toussaint’s “What Is Success” – they tell the story firsthand. Accompanied by Chris Burns’s piano stylings, their duet is so delicious that even “oh-oh-oh” becomes meaningful. When they deliver Bob Dylan’s tale of manipulation and jealousy, “What Was It You Wanted,” their vocal blend drips with funky R&B ‘tude. The tune bounces brightly with simmering solos from 2015 IBC Best Guitarist Ben Rice, and Berkowitz on harmonica.

They make a meal of Brook Benton’s “Baby, You Got What It Takes,” featuring Kevin’s Zuffi’s subtle keyboards and Marvin Green’s zesty guitar. Lemons did some hard living before writing “Detroit City Man.” She pulls the sparse images from her heart with bare hands, revealing her intense, impulsive self without apology.

– Annie Dinerman

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