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Steve Dupree & The Delta Flyers – Dr Dupree’s Love Shop
Label: Soulbilly Music Group
12 songs – 45 minutes
The Delta Flyers started life as an acoustic duo in 2007, playing original blues songs in the Mississippi Delta. Dr Dupree’s Love Shop, the band’s fourth studio release, sees original singer and songwriter Steve Dupree backed by an expanded three-piece electric band, with guest spots from Derek O’Brien (guitar), Marcia Ball (piano) and Nick Connolly (keyboards), the Texas Horns (John Mills, Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff and Al Gomez) and vocalists Lisa Tingle and Alice Stewart. In addition to playing tenor sax with the Texas Horns, Kaz Kazanoff also adds his unique talents on harmonica, percussion and background vocals, as well as producing the album. With a line-up of that quality, one has the right to expect something a little special. Thankfully, the 12 original songs on Dr Dupree’s Love Shop deliver exactly that, albeit with a sound that is much closer to modern electric Texas blues than traditional acoustic Delta blues.
The opening riff of the first song, “Broke Up”, is lifted from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”, but this actually sets the tone for much of what is to follow. Like John Fogerty, Dupree has a knack of coming up with simple, well-written and well-played songs, usually with a catchy chorus that lodges in your brain while your toes start tapping out the irresistible rhythm. Derek O’Brien adds some searing slide playing to “Broke Up” that is typically lyrical.
Next up is “First Dance”, where the singer tells his cheating woman that “This ain’t my first dance, and you’ve had your last chance.” Dupree is adept at producing clever lyrics in a conversational style that is reminiscent of Delbert McClinton, for example in the line “Now comes the part with the crocodile tears, well that’s the best job acting I’ve seen in years.”
John Mills rips a mean sax solo while Marcia Ball’s superb piano gives the song a deep flavour of Louisiana.
The title track, which features Stewart and Tingle praising the loving talents of Dupree, slows the pace slightly for a funky yet soulful workout, with excellent backing from the Texas Horns.
It isn’t just the guest musicians who impress on this recording, however. Bassist Quentin “Q” Calva and drummer Steve Brundrick are a solid, swinging rhythm section. Guitarist Travis Stephenson plays fine acoustic and electric guitar, especially on the Allman-esque harmonies on “Lucky Seven”, and his ferocious slide on “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Dog” is one of the album’s highlights.
It is also particularly impressive how the guest musicians blend so seamlessly with the band, making it sound as if they have been playing together for years. “St Paul’s Bottoms” features a looping, driving rhythm that is reminiscent of The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ version of “Runnin’ Shoes”. As Dupree sings of his descent into sin, Stephenson’s guitar matches it with dirt and debauchery while Kazanoff’s harp wails over the top throughout.
Kazanoff’s production is sympathetic and clean throughout, with each instrument clearly audible across the spectrum.
The album isn’t perfect. It’s probably fair to say that some of the slower songs do not work as well as the more upbeat numbers - “My Angel Of Mercy” feels like it is searching for a huge chorus without ever quite finding one. And while one has to admire anyone who can produce the couplet “… she was off to Mozambique, for an audience with a Sheik”, some of Dupree’s puns that don’t always work.
But that is pretty small change in the grand scheme of things. Overall, this is a great roadhouse blues record, played by a tight, swinging band. Highly recommended.
Reviewer Rhys Williams is a blues guitarist based in Cambridge, England. With a number of doctors and lawyers in his immediate family, he is in many ways very similar to Hollywood Fats, but without Fats’ talent, taste and technique.