When they perform their R&B music for Upper Valley audiences, Dr. Burma will occasionally bring along a horn section. After hearing “One Bite Won’t Kill You,” the second album of their 20-year career, you may wish they brought the brass everywhere they went.
The record harkens back to the golden age of horn bands like Blood, Sweat and Tears, Tower of Power and Cold Blood. It’s a treat from start to finish.
Mixing well-crafted originals with a tidy selection of covers, the band keeps the energy level high throughout. Carlene Carter’s “I Love You ‘Cause I Want To” showcases Linda Boudreault’s bluesy singing, as does “If I Were An Airplane,” a song rich in double entendre. The latter deftly channels “Give It Up”-era Bonnie Raitt, and features some nifty piano work from Doug Southworth,
The db Horns get a workout on the title cut, as well as on an update of the Albert King jump blues gem, “Let’s Have a Natural Ball.” A toothy remake of John Hiatt’s little-heard “The Crush” also puts the brass out front, and features a great Boudreault/Mortimer vocal duet.
All original songs are credited to lead guitarist Ted Mortimer (there’s two Boudreault co-writes), save one – Southworth’s rousing New Orleans-flavored “I Know What My Baby Likes,” which starts like a Dr. John gumbo and ends with a gospel romp that would make Ray Charles smile.
“The Things We Do” is a Mortimer original that borrows its structure from the Allman Brothers’ “Trouble No More,” and contains the best line on the record. “What makes a poodle chase a hound?”
What, indeed? Listening to this kind of stuff on their doggie iPod (iDog?) is a likely cause.
Guest harp player Johnny Bishop helps out with a wicked solo on the tail feather shaker “Ridin’ For A Fall.”
“One More Chance” and “I’m Gonna Build Me A Playhouse” serve as homage to Steely Dan; the former fits new lyrics to “Chain Lightning,” while the latter would flow seamlessly with “Josie.”
That’s not a complaint – unlike Diddy’s heist of “Every Breath You Take,” Dr. Burma plays all the instruments (and quite well at that) when retrofitting email references and other modernities to the Seventies chestnut.
The record closes with “I Only Have Love,” a song with a tad more turbocharged tempo than W.C. Clark’s well-known version.
As “One Bite Won’t Kill You” fades, the last sound is a hearty laugh, to make it clear that Dr. Burma had as much fun making it as you will have listening to it.
Dr. Burma play a CD Release Party at Salt Hill Pub in Lebanon on Saturday, June 7.