Artist: Tim Gartland
Album: If You Want a Good Woman
Release Date: 11/11/2016
Nashville means country music to most people, but the city has reached an almost unrivaled status as a recording center for all kinds of music these days. Here’s another solid blues album recorded in Music City. Tim Gartland started in the Chicago clubs, studied harmonica with Jerry Portnoy, played with several Chicago greats, became a prominent name in the Boston blues scene and, having developed strong songwriting skills, took his talents to Nashville for this, his third, album. Prior to this effort, he released Looking Into the Sun in 2011 and Million Stars in 2014. He relocated to Nashville in 2015. As he says, “The blues is essentially a genre in which the singer is having a cathartic experience. If you write about themes that are meaningful to your experience, you will create something new. When you pour your heart and soul into a song, it can be something special.” Gartland cites his major influences as Little Walter for harp playing, Ray Charles for song interpretation and Willie Dixon for songwriting.
Working with incredibly busy keyboard player and producer, Kevin McKendree, and in-demand session players like drummer Lynn Williams and bassist Steve Mackey, Gartland found the right support for his twelve originals. Gartland himself is a gifted harmonica player with a clean amplified tone, who plays with more nuance than fire, whether using diatonic or chromatic harps. He sings with deep but relaxed soul, aided by Wendy Moten’s background vocals and crisp, tasty solos from guitarist Tim Britt, his keyboard songwriting partner, Tom West, McKendree and his own rather economical harp excursions.
His songs are authentic and well crafted, replete with a sense of humor and catchy hooks. He begins with “What the Blues Look Like,” elaborating on many clichés associated with the idiom, contemplates about what to do with an “Hour’s Worth” of time and money and summarizes his life’s missteps in “I Had It All.” He reveals his sense of humor in tunes like “Too Many Groceries” and “Introduce Me to Your Hat” while paying tribute to Willie Dixon in “Willie That’s Who.” It’s probably more coincidental than intentional, but it seems like Delbert McClinton’s vibe is present here somehow. Maybe McKendree just carries that with him, given his long association with Delbert. Nonetheless, this album comes off so naturally, you’d think that Gartland had made dozens of albums already.