I'm Wise

Carl "Sonny" Leyland

HMG Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/25/1999

When you're in the mood for a little party in the cubicle, nothing seems to beat roadhouse blues with a strong piano backbone. You can be having the day from Hell at work, but after a few of these numbers, you'll suddenly find your mood improving - at least until someone drops a new stack of work on your desk that had to be completed last Thursday.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Carl "Sonny" Leyland's latest disc I'm Wise is a wonderful example of how mentally lifting roadhouse blues can be. With the rhythm section of guitarist Malcolm Chapman, bassist Matt Radford and drummer Brian Nevill backing him, Leyland and crew plow through 14 tracks that are sure to get your toes tapping in no time.

Relying both on his own creations (Leyland wrote half the songs on I'm Wise) as well as some well-known names of blues like Roosevelt Sykes and "Big Bill" Broonzy, Leyland proves what an uplifting experience the blues can be. Tracks like "Wine Women & Song," "Midnight Steppers," "Kingfish Boogie" and the title track all are prime examples of this. Leyland's vocals fit the mood perfectly, almost elevating Leyland to the "master of ceremonies" for the Mardi Gras that unfolds with each track.

The one inherent danger to all this is that one can too easily - and unintentionally - turn this into festive background music for their day-to-day activities. I found that I had to re-listen to certain portions of I'm Wise three times before I was able to walk away with a clearer understanding of the music. Granted, it's not bad music to have in the background, but in order for one to have complete enjoyment of this disc, they may want to limit what they're doing to things like dancing and snapping their fingers.

Throughout tracks like "Get Used To The Blues," "The Honky Tonk Wine" and "Done Tore Your Playhouse Down," Leyland and his band remind the listener that the blues is not always about feeling down, it's a celebration of life. In that sense, I'm Wise is the perfect title for this album, because Leyland recognizes the healing powers of the blues.

Rating: B+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of HMG Records, and is used for informational purposes only.