Album Reviews

Billy Price

Alive and Strange

Artist:     Billy Price

Album:     Alive and Strange

Label:     Nola Blue/Vizztone

Release Date:     04/07/ 2017

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You might think that an artist with 15 albums would be practically a household name. While that’s true for blues fans in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas, Billy Price, the blue-eyed soul man, seems to just recently been garnering some national attention. Some of this is due to his widely-heralded 2015 release with the late Otis Clay, This Time for Real. Those who are familiar with Price consistently echo, “He’s no pretender. He’s the real deal.” Price has been on the circuit for the past three decades, establishing his cred as the lead singer for legendary guitarist Roy Buchanan, with whom he recorded two albums. He’s played major venues and festivals all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe after having formed the horn-driven Billy Price Band in 1990. As with his collaboration with Otis Clay, this one is also on Vizztone, giving Price an opportunity for the wider recognition he has earned.

Here he augments his six-piece band with two more horns, a couple of background vocalists, and two other singular guest spots. The first ten tracks were recorded at the sold-out Club Café in Pittsburgh with the bonus track done at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music. A little home cooking always helps and it’s easier to call on your buddies when you’re in the same neighborhood. This is likely a good indication of their regular set list; mining blues, R&B, soul and funk. Most of the tunes are relatively obscure covers of great writers like William Bell (“Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown”), Percy Mayfield (“Nothing Stays the Same Forever’), James Brown (“Never Get Enough”), Magic Sam (“What Have I Done Wrong”), and Roy Milton (“R.M. Blues”).

The band absolutely sizzles, especially Eric DeFade on tenor sax, who delivers searing solos in several places, most notably on “This Time I’m Gone for Good” and “Nothing Stays the Same Forever.” If I were still doing radio, I might select the opening track, “It Ain’t a Juke Joint Without the Blues” as my theme song. If you have any doubts on how expressive and convincing a soul singer Price can be, go directly to the goose bump-inducing “This Time I’m Gone for Good.” Price’s anguished vocals combined with DeFade’s tenor solo are the definition of what is termed “deep soul.” Price and the band strut their funky stuff on Brown’s “Never Get Enough” and show their swinging ’50s R&B chops on Milton’s “R.M Blues,” the best example of horn ensemble playing and multiple solos on the disc.

Price will gather even more momentum with this release. Catch him live on tour. You’ll feel his pain, his joy, and won’t be able to sit still. Don’t be surprised if this one leaves your CD player smoldering.

—Jim Hynes

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