When the term R&B comes up these days, it's too often associated with syrupy, smooth ballads. When I think of R&B, it's much more in terms of what Barrence Whitfield and The Savages are kicking out on their Bloodshot Records debut, Dig Thy Savage Soul.
This is primal, stompin' and soulful rock-and-roll, the kind that was kicking asses in the '60s and -- on this album -- still is.
From opener "The Corner Man" to the wailing saxophone that drives a cover of Jerry McCain's "Turn Your Damper Down" 11 songs later, Dig Thy Savage Soul totally exemplifies its title.
The band broke out of Boston's garage rock scene in the mid-'80s and gained cult favourite status through its records and intense performances that earned it tour slots with the likes of Bo Diddley, Tina Turner, Robert Cray, Solomon Burke and George Thorogood before it went on a lengthy hiatus. The group reformed in 2011 with new drummer Andy Joy and saxophonist Tom Quartulli joining Whitfield and original guitarist Peter Greenberg (The Lyres, DMZ) and bassist Phil Lenker (The Lyres), and it seems that nothing was lost during that interim.
Whitfield's powerful voice growls and howls throughout the album, and it has to because a lesser vocalist would be drowned by the powerful musical forces driving almost to the point of recklessness behind him through a mix of original tunes and rather obscure covers. Whitfield is just a couple of years away from 60, but the passion and energy heard here is that of a man less than half that age.
Performances are supposed to be sweaty, high-octane affairs, and I'm hoping I can be part of one sooner rather than later since Dig Thy Savage Soul is such a knockout.