Gregg Smith
I Wanna Rock You
Ultrax 4534-2

Synths and electronic percussion are endemic to soul-blues, whether we like them or not. Such devices figure strongly into I Wanna Rock You, and if for that reason you avoid it, youíll miss out on some well-executed and very compelling music. Smith lives in Dallas, home to soul-blues stars Johnnie Taylor, Ernie Johnson, Vernon Garrett and R.L. Griffin. Heís not as famed as they but is known thereabouts as a similarly impressive singer, and here lends his gilt pipes to lowdown blues, insistent dance numbers and ballads.

A sidebar benefit is the presence of producer/guitarist Butch Bonner, not widely known outside Big D but noted there as one talented dude. Foes of electronic keyboards and percussion may find that, despite them, the kickoff cut, "Thatís the Way," has a rhythm thatís as hard to resist as soul dance-grooves were in the era of horns and pianos. Bonnerís oily, wah-wah guitar slithers in and over the forceful groove, while Smith chants the lyrics in a voice you could pour on pancakes.

Next up is "Louisiana Bound," five minutes and 36 seconds of pavement-hard, citified slow blues, with real-life drums (by Brent Nance) and some screaminí guitar from Bonner. "Dance With the One" is another dance-groove, with Smith assisted by backup singers and sax work by another local light, Don Diego, who offers a nasty solo. "Iím Trusting in You" is a happy soul-romp thatíd be a perfect sound track to your drive-bys through the parts of town where they have posters for R&B shows stapled to the phone poles. Just as sunny is "Love Is Amazing" (penned by Robert Ward), which is sung wonderfully and has an electric piano solo from Linny Nance thatís so cool it proves we might not ought to be quite so quick to diss electronic keyboards!

"Knocking on Heavenís Door" may seem like a surprising entry from a soul-blues dude, but itís long been a staple ó even a highlight ó of Smithís live performances, and indeed the version here was cut at Fort Worthís Caravan of Dreams. Surprisingly moving given its lyrical simplicity when performed by its composer (Bob Dylan, in case youíre just getting up), its a winner. Closing I Wanna Rock You is the two-minute "Mother," which will prove moving to anyone whoís ever had one.

To fans of the soul-blues mode, Smith will be a good discovery. Heís worthy of a larger audience, and this may well win him that.

ó Tim Schuller

This page and all contents are © 1998 by Blues Access,
Boulder, CO, USA.