Mighty Sam McClain

Sledgehammer Soul & Down Home Blues

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The title of this CD couldn't be more descriptive of its contents, for it illustrates that Mighty Sam McClain is indeed a master of sledgehammer soul and down-home electric blues. Influenced by Bobby "Blue" Bland but nonetheless his own person, the Louisiana native is a charismatic singer who is as convincing on blues gems like "Where You Been So Long," "They Call Me Mighty," and the haunting "When the Hurt Is Over" (the perfect marriage of Bland and John Lee Hooker) as he is on such Southern soul treasures as "Trying to Find Myself" and "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." When it comes to R&B, McClain's approach is essentially Southern and very 1960s-influenced -- the sleekness that characterized so much of the soul-pop of Detroit, Philadelphia, and Chicago isn't an influence on this fine album, and he shows no awareness whatsoever of mid-'90s trends in urban contemporary music. But McClain (who is joined by a solid band that includes horns, electric Hammond organ and a rhythm section) does surprise us by embracing reggae on the uplifting "Pray." This is definitely a CD to savor.

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