By Aaron Porter
There is no doubt that Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues are in the category of new greats. Branch is part of a collection of modern day masters who not only learned from the greats of yesteryear but continue to apply the tradition. Credit is also due to Branch for keeping his talented band, the Sons of Blues, together for nearly 25+ years. Love, loss, and addiction have come and gone, but the S.O.B’s hold strong.
Writing music is easily one of the most difficult arts there is. Writing good music is near impossible. Branch hits the mark of great music not once but twice on Blues Shock. The first is “Going To See Miss Gerri One More Time,” a beautiful tribute to Gerri Oliver, a song that clearly means a great deal to Branch. As they explain in the liner notes, Gerri Oliver owned the landmark 47th Street Palm Tavern, which was a center for Bronzeville nightlife for decades until City Hall removed it in order to build an as-yet unfinished “Blues District,” the pet project of the “lady in the hat.”
The second “win” comes in the form of Song For My Mother.Deep, heartfelt joy, passion and pain have always been a driving voice in the blues and Branch demonstrates what that can accomplish if you let it, all of which is demonstrated in Song For My Mother.
Now, while Branch struck gold with those two tunes, I cannot say the same for Baby Let me Butter Your Corn. I’ve never been a fan of the double entendre. I understand it’s a blues standard, but from the early days it was more sly whimsy not raunchy. While songs of this nature can be amusing the first or second time you hear them, (and of course the occasional “Hey check this out”) really all they’re good for, shock (see what I did there?).
The rest of the tunes are for the most part pretty good. Branch and the S.O.B.’s bring their best, but the lyrics for the most part come off as hook driven pop blues. Which is not to say a bad thing, but I’ve come to expect more from Branch and company. Despite a long, fifteen-year hiatus since their last release, this latest album has an unpolished quality that left a little to be desired. However, Billy Branch and the S.O.B.’s are some of my favorite musicians; their live shows are always a wonderfully enjoyable blend of upbeat, insightful, thought provoking entertainment. From an instrumental standpoint I enjoyed the album, and I imagine with that crew I always will. No matter what you do check out Miss Gerri and Song For My Mother, they will become permanent tracks in your mix.