The National Debonaires
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The National Debonaires

Jackson, Mississippi, United States | INDIE

Jackson, Mississippi, United States | INDIE
Band Blues Americana

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"Blues CD Review 39"

Blues CD Reviews 39

Steve Gerard And The National Debonaires
Featuring Dave "Elmo" Bailey
"New Sounds From Kansas City"
Soundgate Records
BY PETER "BLEWZZMAN" LAURO, © September, 2007

It's a beautiful thing to be able to instantly recognize a beautiful thing. That's exactly what happened as I listened to "NEW SOUNDS FROM KANSAS CITY" by the NATIONAL DEBONAIRES. It was barely twenty-five seconds into the opening track when I had decided I was listening to a winner of a disc, and the next fifty-one minutes repeatedly validated that decision.

The NATIONAL DEBONAIRES are: STEVE GERARD on guitar; DAVE "ELMO" BAILEY on vocals; ANDY GRAFFITI on drums; PATRICK RECOB on bass; MIKE "SHINETOP JR" SEDOVIC on piano and organ; And their very special guests on "NEW SOUNDS FROM KANSAS CITY" include: LEE MCBEE on harmonica; DOUG "SARGE" RYNACK on piano; JIMI BOTT on drums; MIKE CLARK on sax.

"LET'S RUN", the opening track referred to earlier, starts out with a hot piano and guitar lead, by DAVE and MIKE (CORRECTION: Steve plays guitar on this and all tracks on the CD; Mike “Shinetop Jr.” Sedovic plays piano on this track), backed by the rhythm section setting the pace that immediately had me snappin' and tappin' my fingers and feet. Then, ELMO started singing and what was already good, just got better.

The very same groove continues right into "MY BABY'S GONE", with MIKE (Clark) adding some great sax highlights. Meanwhile, ELMO continues to blow me away on vocals. I think it may be due to the fact that his voice and style are so much reminiscent of the late "Barkin" Bill Smith, one of my all time favorites blues vocalists.

"CLEAR VIEW", is another of several STEVE GERARD originals. It's a smoker with that rockin' "Johnny B. Goode" thing happening on guitar and that wailin' "Great Balls of Fire" thing going on the piano. One of the discs best right here.

ANDY, PATRICK and MIKE are on fire on "WRAPPED AROUND HER FINGER". The pace they set on drums, bass and piano absolutely rips. This one will definitely delight the dancers.

One of ANDY'S originals, "ROCKING FOOL", has such a great, line in it. It goes like this... "I had a job pumping gas, I just had to quit it.... I tried to tell the boss, but he just didn't get it.... When the radio was rockin', I just had to stop... You can't check the oil when you're doin' the bop". Damn could I relate to that. In many a review, I've mentioned not being able to type due to excessive bopping. Some of the discs best guitar work can be heard on this one.

One of the more serious blues tracks is "AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN AGAIN", another original by ANDY (CORRECTION: “Ain’t Gonna Happen Again” was written by Steve). This is the kind of stuff that gets my blues boat floatin'. ELMO'S super soulful vocals sent chills right through me. Damn, who is this guy and why have I not heard of him before? Also highlighting this one is some great blues guitar work by STEVE and lots of masterful mood setting organ by MIKE. Unquestionably this listeners favorite track.

The closing track, "THE HUSTLE IS ON", is the one that features all of the special guests with MIKE'S tenor sax being the highlight.

Other tracks on "NEW SOUNDS FROM KANSAS CITY" include: "MISSING MY BABY", "BETTE JANE'S SMILE", "SEND FOR ME", "HEAVY WEIGHT BABY", "STEADY DRIVER" and "I LIKE PRETTY WOMEN".

I know I recommend a lot of CD's to my readers, but this one's a must have. Check out the NATIONAL DEBONAIRES at www.nationaldebonaires.com and grab a copy. While you're there, tell the guys that Blewzzman's saying that if you want to win the 2007 BLEWZZY AWARD, "NEW SOUNDS FROM KANSAS CITY" is the disc ya gotta beat.
- mary4music


"Illinois Blues"

Steve Gerard and the National Debonaires?New Sounds From Kansas City
Soundgate Records SGP07-0303a 2007
http://www.illinoisblues.com/bluesartists/debonaires.htm

Review by Dale Clark
This is an outstanding new album by a new band of mature players with long musical resumés. Plainly, this is a project of Steve Gerard who begins with a strong sense of American musical history and means to make that history bend back at least one more time in the direction of the swing sound.

This album earns our attention through stand out performances, fresh writing, and near flawless discipline in conception.

As guitarist, Gerard brings his best game to New Sounds From Kansas City, not as the show stopping soloist but as the master stylist at the spine of the thing who knows the idioms of blues, swing, and jazz so profoundly he can produce the exact effect he is seeking in every song. Mike “Shinetop Jr.” Sedovic lifts songs with his honky tonk piano as on “My Baby’s Gone” and drives the album to its high point with his organ in the “Ain’t Gonna Happen Again” dirge. Patrick Recob skillfully walks the standup bass throughout the album, at times, as in “Heavy Weight Baby,” reminding us of our endless fascination with this remarkable instrument. Andy Graffiti makes the whole project go forward with the kind of pushing drumming that separates good blues bands from the also-rans.

In addition, there are guest performances by Fabulous Thunderbirds drummer Jimi Bott, Mike Morgan and the Crawl harmonica player Lee McBee, three time Canadian blues “Horn Player of the Year” Mike Clark, and Anson Funderburgh piano side-kick Doug “Sarge” Rynack.

This is a talented and highly experienced group of players, and Gerard and his co-producer Steve McBride deserve tremendous credit for getting great performances from them and for bleeding it together to make vital swing.

The surprise on the album is singer Dave “Elmo” Bailey. Mo Bailey turns out to have a deep throated voice you will never forget. Once through New Sounds From Kansas City, I picked Mo out on the radio after hearing just one line. Bailey is that rare, fine, European American, male blues singer; on this collection he achieves not just good singing in some “beautiful music” sensibility, but becomes a presence and a persona that links the whole thing together and gives it personality.

As an album of music, Gerard has provided wonderful contrasts of style and pace—alternating from swing, to string bending blues, to piano rock, to swamp boogie, to harmonica shuffle.

Gerard wrote six of the songs, Graffiti two; three are from the blues catalogue and one each is by contemporary writers Mike Bourne and Geoff Starin. It is much easier to take a band seriously when they work to bring us something new in this way. All this writing raises questions that first rate musicians should be eager to engage.

In his liner notes Gerard says that this is not the old Kansas City music of Joe Turner or Count Basie, but includes among the notes a series of black and white photos of the long since derelict clubs of the Kansas City blues hey-day. Gerard observes, “Just knowing that at one time there were more than 100 active clubs in the area around 18th and Vine is enough to raise hair on your arm.” And his writing so, was enough to raise some on mine.

But for what the National Debonaires seem to be trying to say, the message is only hair raising-ly middle class and nostalgic. There is some great good humor here. In the opening song “Let’s Run” Mo clues us in that “she is not worth dying for,” and then to her “. . . run, ooo baby let’s run…” But most of the problems here are pedestrian: bad boy road songs, stayin’ out late, and my favorite, “I wanna watch that football game, she said ‘No, no, no! Get out there in the yard—let me see you mow, mow, mow!’” I have a hard time taking this as some deeply ironic commentary, mocking the way blues music has been co-opted and pacified for middle class audiences. It sounds like rueful sexist complaint of middle aged, middle class males to me—almost, and here I really do not mean to offend but only to challenge pointedly, Rush Limbaugh set to music.

And the swing sound, a music of motion capable of carrying many messages, in these songs only nostalgically underlines and never subverts this conservative point of view.

This last may be the most important thing for any band trying to revitalize swing. If it is impossible to go from old swing to new swing without wrecking the musical edifice; is it possible to go back to the old swing and find something hiding, as yet undiscovered, among the old sounds, and hook it up to a contemporary sensibility? It seems to me that is where Steve Gerard and the National Debonaires need to go next, to swing us somewhere. This group seems to be up to the challenge.

My recommendation to readers is very clear. If you like swing blues, you must buy this album. If you treasure great male singing in the blues, you should buy this album. And if you run a blues or jazz and blues festival for the summer of 2008, you owe it to yourself and your audience to get in touch with this band.
- IllinoisBlues.com


Discography

"New Sounds from Kansas City" The National Deboanires 2007
"Words Are Like Bullets" The National Debonaires 2010
"Voodoo Workin'" The National Deboanires 2011

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Bio

Steve Gerard & The National Debonaires will release their third CD this summer, this time with Jackson, Mississippi’s 71-years-young blues singer James “Rock” Gray”. Gray, a contemporary and good friend of legendary Jackson singer, drummer and harmonica man, Sam Myers (Anson Funderburgh) is now a permanent member of The National Debonaires. He’ll be featured along with the great Kansas City-based singer Dave “Elmo” Bailey.

“James and Mo pack a vocal punch that is really hard to beat,” says Steve Gerard. “I love singers and these two are some of the best blues singers that can be found working today. Our shows have this tremendous variety – you can dance, cry, drink, flirt, cheat and still make it home with a smile on your face.”

“Fans of traditional electric blues, especially of the Dallas, Texas, variety should get hold of both CDs from this band as soon as possible. This album (Words Are Like Bullets) is played in true ensemble fashion, sounding better and better with each listen. It works its way into your soul like all good blues should – nice and deep. Steve Gerard is a fine guitar player possessing good tone and great taste. Dave Bailey is a blues-singer's blues singer; the man has a voice made for singing this music. The keyboard work of Shinetop Jr. is an (almost) hidden weapon here; listen closely so you hear everything he plays, especially while he is comping. Throw in a rock-solid rhythm section, then spice it up with some special guests and you've got a project to be proud of. “ -- Lee Howland, aka, East Side Slim, a St. Louis-based music reviewer.