Now Playing: Billy Price’s ‘Dog Eat Dog’

Image courtesy of Billy Price

Singer Billy Price’s latest release is titled Dog Eat Dog (on Gulf Coast Records). It’s his third project since 2015 and the follow-up to his 2018 solo release, The Reckoning. But first, for those not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.

Billy Price

Photo by David Aschkenas

New Jersey-born Billy Price is an emotive soul/blues singer first came into the national spotlight while working with blues guitarist Roy Buchanan. He has toured extensively with Buchanan and with two other bands. He has performed the US and Canada including gigs at Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Roxy, and Troubadour in L.A., the Spectrum in Philadelphia, and the Newport Jazz Festival.

According to his website, the Pittsburgh-based performer was officially deemed “a Pittsburgh Rock ‘n Roll Legend.” This Time for Real which he recorded with the late Otis Clay scored him a 2016 Blues Music Award for Best Soul Blues Album of 2015. His disc The Reckoning was nominated for a 2019 Blues Music Award for Best Soul Blues Album of 2018.

Including his work with the Keystone Rhythm Band, the Billy Price Band, he has recorded 17 albums. Price, who just turned 70, is said by some sources to be one of the few remaining “torchbearers of the last four decades” of blues, R&B and soul music.

Signature sound

Billy Price’s signature sound is a blend of music genres, including contemporary and Chicago blues, funk, R&B, and Memphis soul.

Dog Eat Dog

Dog Eat Dog is a 12-track album. It contains four cover cuts and eight original audio offerings. On this album, he is backed by an assortment of other artists including
co-producer Kid Andersen (guitars, glockenspiel, vibraphone, percussion, ARP) Alex Pettersen (drums), Jerry Jemmott (bass), Jim Pugh (keys), Jon Otis (congas), Eric Spaulding (tenor sax), John Halbleib (trumpet), Jack Sanford (baritone sax), Vicki Randle (congas and background vocals), and Lisa Leuschner Andersen, Charlie Owen, Alabama Mike and Sons of the Soul Revivers (background vocals),

Track by track

The 12-track album opens on the humorous “Working On Your Chain Gang.” It was co-written by Price and his main writing partner musician Jim Britton. It’s got its own subtle funky groove and provides an intro to the backing band, horn section, and backing singers.

The second selection is “Lose My Number.” This is another Price-Britton composition. It’s an atmospheric, slightly smoky, smooth song about breaking up with a duplicitous girlfriend. The vocals fluctuate between subtle restraint and out and out swagger.

The next number is “We’re In Love.” This is the first of four covers. It’s an old Bobby Byrd song served up with a great beat and noteworthy scatting. It’s a nice reinterpretation complete with both old school and contemporary elements and a nice, little sax solo to boot.

The second cover cut is the titular track “Dog Eat Dog.” Not to be confused with the Ted Nugent or AC/DC songs from the 1970s, this is a cover of the swampy blues classic by Richard S. Estrin. It includes new lyrics by M. Benjamin and guest musician Rick Estrin on harmonica.

Also included here is “My Love Will Never Die.” This is the third cover here and Price’s presentation of this Wilie Dixon-written Otis Rush song is both convincing and strong. It’s a sincere rendition.

“All Night Long Cafe” is a blues-funk piece. This Price-Britton work about a 24-hour hangout is highlighted by a great guitar solo by guest artist Mike Zito. It is somewhat reminiscent of some R&B-tinged James Brown material too.

By the time “Walk Back In” opens Price’s signature sound has gelled. This track exposes audiences to Price’s smoother song stylings. It’s a bit overshadowed by the previous piece in its placement though.

Price’s songful swagger is back on the funk-infected blues bit “Toxicity.” The song presents a musical metaphor about how a relationship can be poisoned much like a body can be. It’s a clever cut co-composed with executive producer Guy Hale. The cut has a trace of Curtis Mayfield and a memorable walking bass line and keyboard solo too.

The charming vocal swagger remains on “Remnants.” It was co-written with French guitarist Fred Chapellier.  Gotta love the lead-in here.

Next is “Same Old Heartaches.” This mid-tempo soul/blues track is the final cover cut here. It was first recorded by the Impressions and was written by Price’s songwriting friends, Melvin and Mervin Steals, perhaps best known for their hit song “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.” As with the other adaptations, Price walks that razor edge between being respectful of the original and still putting his impressive song stylings out there.

The ballad “More Than I Needed” follows. The song is an efficient musical melding of soul and contemporary blues. This was also co-composed with Chapellier.

Price and Bill Troiani’s R&B original “You Gotta Leave” is the apt album end-note. After all, since there is no encore, you do indeed have to leave (or hit play again and start over with the album opener, at any rate). It’s one of the best bits here.

This platter debuted at number 9 on the well-known Billboard Blues Albums Chart so it’s off to a great start. Overall, the album is a good combination of collaborations and covers. The latter is performed respectfully and while instantly recognizable, includes individualistic elements that make them fresh.

Price is paying homage to those who have gone before. The disc is also amply highlighted by funky grooves, husky vocals, and strong harmonies and melodies. So check out Billy Price’s Dog Eat Dog because it’s not just a lot of songs about the “Same Old Heartaches.”