Dead Men Don't Pray


Cabin Music, 2015

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


It's pretty hard not to mention that TBelly's frontman Russell Keefe was a member of Scottish pop legends Bay City Rollers. However, that's not all that Tbelly has going for them. With an esteemed collection of musicians with strong backgrounds, this first album puts Keefe's giant, growling vocals up against an eclectic and unique brand of blues-rock meets R&B that's difficult not to enjoy. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album starts out with "Tie It On My Face," where Keefe's coarse pipes are met with strong percussion, smooth female backing vocals, and most importantly, addictive guitar work. "Lie In The Desert" follows and takes a slower pace where keys and a more R&B angle are put to use. Though the use of female voices to support Keefe's far from polished vocals might seem like mixing oil and water, it works exceptionally well, and represents the album's dichotomy between rugged rock and silky smooth dynamics. The title track takes yet another twist where the sparse finger snapping builds into a layered, cultured hybrid of timeless blues. Rounding out the first half of the album are "Best Out Of You," a more subdued approach for the band, and "Respectable Man," a louder rocker where TBelly approaches garage rock and Keefe shows an impressive range.

The second half of the album is even better than the first, featuring disc highlight "Mr TBelly Blues," a reckless tune where wild keys and loud guitars join into a blues-filled explosion of melody and precision. "Night At The Ritz" follows and brings in a calm atmosphere and moody guitar work, before the gritty, piano driven “Where's The Doctor.” As the album nears the end, the vocals seem to get coarser and the atmospheres become geared towards late night contemplation, as exemplified by the organ heavy rocker “I Want To Be With You” and the sparse acoustic closer “Broken.”

If you have an ear for the blues, you can't go wrong here. And if gravelly singing à la Joe Cocker or Tom Waits is your cup of tea, even better.

Rating: A-

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© 2015 Tom Haugen 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 Cabin Music, and is used for informational purposes only.