Third Time Is The Charm

Southern Gentlemen

Leviathan Records, 2006

http://www.leviathanrecords.com/sg1.htm

REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/04/2006

Southern Gentlemen welcome a new vocalist, Eric Johns, for the band's third release of metal/blues. While I didn't have an issue with the vocals of guitarist David T. Chastain on their previous two releases, I am glad that Johns is on board. He brings another element to the band's musical message.

Chastain, whose resume is long and impressive, wastes little time reconfirming he can still kick out a great solo. In fact, he lets loose in opener "Even Now," but is able to maintain a greater awareness of song instead of being a guitar-hero showoff on this release. That seems to be the theme for the band this time around, especially in the rhythm section of drummer Mike Haid and bassist Dave Smart, who provide an interesting foundation for Chastain. Throwing Johns into the mix makes this a very good listen.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What the SG have going for them is groove, especially on "Don't Go," the best song here. Chastain's riff is direct without a lot of flash and Haid and Smart lock in. This sets up Johns to sing a gut-wrenching tale about a woman leaving him: "Don't know what the Good Book says / 'cause it's never been read by me," he sings, as if his life depended upon convincing the listener that he is in agony over the woman leaving him. While the subject matter is not new, what is new is the way this song grooves. It's a slower tune with a lot of space where the message is allowed to resonate.

Another stellar track is the upbeat boogie-blues "Caught You Red-Handed," which is about walking into a room and finding your woman with your best friend or, as John comments, "My ex-best friend." The chorus of "I walked in the door and you're both on the floor / There's no way to pretend / I don't know why, there's no need to try /caught you red-handed with my best friend / My ex-best friend."

Another great track is "Broken Man." Chastain allows his guitar riff to breathe with pauses that Haid and Swart fill in with a solid groove. Perhaps the only misstep of the release is the closer "Ladies Of The Night," which sounds like something from the Slide It In-era Whitesnake. The track sounds out of place and the release would have been stronger if the band had ended the release with "Reflections." Lyrically and musically, this song would have been a better final statement in this chapter of the band's history. The song ends with an excellent guitar solo and a synchronized snare/guitar/bass fill that would have ended the release perfectly.

As long as I'm airing wishes, I wish the band would have made "Heaven Help Me Now" as a duet between Johns and Chastain. I think the guitar riff and Johns' vocals are a perfect union that makes the drums and bass unnecessary. Maybe they would consider making that song just guitar/vocals at any live shows they perform.

I liked the first two Southern Gentlemen releases, but pulling in Johns to do the vocals was a wise choice and could help the band's mainstream recognition. And for his part, Chastain provides enough guitar flash to satisfy students of his playing while also providing a feast for fans of hard-driving rock and roll with some blues.

Rating: B+

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