Saxophonist, singer-songwriter and arranger Jimmy Carpenter’s newest release is titled Soul Doctor. Now out on Gulf Coast Records, it is his fourth solo project. But first, for those not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.
According to his website, Carpenter “began his musical journey over 35 years ago.” He toured with the renegade blues band, The Alka-Phonics, in the 1980s. He next toured with the blues-rock band The Believers in the 1990s.
He recorded and toured with Mike Zito and the Wheel in 2012. His three other solo albums include 2008’s Toiling in Obscurity, 2014’s Walk Away, and 2017’s Jimmy Carpenter Plays the Blues. Currently based in Las Vegas, Nevada, Carpenter is the Musical Director for the Big Blues Bender, and leader of the Bender Brass. Earlier this year he was nominated for a Blues Music Award, his fourth in the category of Best Instrumentalist/Horn.
Jimmy Carpenter’s signature sound is a mix of music genres, including blues, funk, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and soul.
On this album, Carpenter leads the way on vocals, saxophone, and guitar. He is backed by an assortment of other artists including Cameron Tyler (drums, percussion, and background vocals), Jason Langley (bass), Trevor Johnson (guitar), Chris Tofield (guitar and background vocals), Red Young (keys), Al Ek (harmonica and background vocals). and Carrie Stowers and Queen Aries(background vocals). Also included here is The Bender Brass: Doug Woolverton (trumpet), and Mark Earley (baritone sax).
Track by track
The 10-track album opens on the titular track. Co-written with Guy Hale, co-founder of Gulf Coast Records, this apt album intro is a fun foreshadowing of what is to come. It’s a blues bit with a tinge of soul. Nick Schnebelen makes a guest appearance on guitar.
The second selection is “When I Met You.” It was inspired by vocalist Carrie Stowers. First written as a country/bluegrass tune, it was later revamped and injected with more of a Memphis groove.
The next number is the fun cut “Wild Streak.” This too was inspired by Stowers. It’s a blues shuffle that probably plays well at live gigs. It features Mike Zito on guitar and slide.
The funky, driving “Love It So Much” follows. It comes complete with a New Orleans-style second-line groove and reflects Carpenter’s love of Crescent City. It also demonstrates the conflict between wanting a normal life and digging life gigging on the road.
“Need Your Love So Bad” is a Carpenter’s cover of a slow, sassy song by Mertis John and Little Willie John. Carpenter owns it with his smooth, sincere delivery and sultry solo.
“Wanna Be Right” has a funky feel to it and an interesting origin to boot. Zito once asked Carpenter: “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” The question stuck with him and inspired him to write this tune that comes complete with some good, frank advice.
Next is another cover cut. It’s Carpenter’s take on the “One Mint Julep” by Rudolph Toombs. Carpenter’s love for the piece harkens back to his days performing with Walter Wolfman Washington and The Roadmasters.
Next is the foot-stomping, hard-edged blues-rock track “Wrong Turn.” This is another tune he co-composed with Hale. Carpenter provided the guitar licks and swagger, Hale provided the lyrics.
“LoFi Roulette” is an instrumental track that truly moves. It comes complete with some darkish keys, a noteworthy guitar solo, and an almost film noir feel.
The closing cut is a cover of “Yeah Man” by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section’s guitarist and singer-songwriter Eddie Hinton. It’s an apropos album end-note in that Carpenter has been a fan of Hinton’s since their first meeting in the 1980s. Critics note it is a superb version of the classic cut.
Overall, this mainly upbeat album is an accurate example of Carpenter’s tuneful talents. It includes nigh infectious choruses and bridges, positive vibes, and great grooves. So check out Jimmy Carpenter’s Soul Doctor because you might just discover you “Love It So Much.”