|Just in time for a July backyard barbecue Moonshine Society from D.C. delivers a delicious course of summertime blues on their second album “Sweet Thing.” A set of ten house rocking tunes, perfect for a night when the June bugs are jumping, the fireflies are sparking, and the moon is shining bright.
Harmonica hound dog Jason Ricci is featured on the opening bump and grind blues track, ‘Sweet Thing,’ returning the favor given to him by band leader and lead vocalist Black Betty, who sang on Ricci’s “Approved By Snakes.” Blues Hall of Fame guitarist Joe Poppen cuts a jagged surf blues riff on the dancefloor number ‘Shake.’ The 1953 blues standard from Ruth Brown, ‘Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean,’ is transformed into a Bourbon street second-line parade, featuring barrelhouse piano, a full horn section that features guest, Ron Holloway (Dizzy Gillespie, Susan Tedeschi, Gil Scott-Heron, Warren Haynes Band, Gov’t Mule), and blazing chops from drummer Rodney Dunton.
Black Betty demonstrates her prowess as both an accomplished vocalist and excellent songwriter on the powerful and luxuriously arranged ballad ‘Come On Home’ that soars with sophisticated classic R&B style. Ricci returns on the rockin’ tribute to the late great Johnny Winter ‘Southern Road,’ joining Poppen on sizzling dual harmony leads and trading fiery solos. Betty then takes us to church and teaches us all a lesson in the bare necessities with the gospel fueled ‘Biscuits, Bacon And The Blues.’
Everyone gets into the action on the mash up of Bill Withers ‘Use Me’ and Dr. John’s ‘Gilded Splinters’ that evolves into a funky retro house music session. Betty throws her hat in the ring delivering a spot on reading of the iconic ballad ‘I’d Rather Go Blind,’ staying true to the original Etta James recording out of the deepest respect for the woman, who bridged the gap between R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. She then channels another Queen of the Blues on the smooth jazzy blues ‘Deal The Devil Made,’ doing her best Dinah Washington, dishing out sass and spunk.
The album closes with the bonus track ‘The One Who Got Away,’ a dynamic contemporary blues ballad that originally appeared on a benefit album for Cancer Can Rock. This nonprofit serves musicians dealing with cancer, a worthy cause if ever there was one.
The strong offering “Sweet Thing” continues the mission statement that Moonshine Society forged ten years ago as fresh music school grads to deliver soulful blues and old-school R&B on their own terms.
Rick J Bowen
Moonshine Society gives a big nod to Aesop’s theory that we’re known by the company we keep. So, while staking claim to lofty Music Land real estate of their own with a searing, cutting-edge blend of blues, soul, rock and R&B, they continue to rack up powerhouse stripes rubbing elbows with the best. Johnny Winter, Gov’t Mule, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Tower of Power, John Mayall, Roomful of Blues, John Mayer and Ron Holloway count among the legends the band and its members have accompanied and opened for, not to mention other greats as Tab Benoit, George Clinton and the Funkadelic, Danny Gatton and Samantha Fish.
Moonshine Society is the offspring of three promising young music scholars who came together at Boston’s renown Berklee College of Music. Of like minds and musical passions, they united in 2009 to create their own brand of soulful blues, roots rock and old-school R&B, should a fundamental definition be required. In truth, they teamed to craft their own formula of music that speaks to the soul and defies the labels of traditional musical confines.
The trio sealed their pact one moonlit night in the Anacostia Delta, where then and there, their name became written in the stars. They were to be Moonshine Society. Little did they know on that fateful night that they were buckled in on a launching pad set to rocket them at dizzying speed to performance destinations of their wildest dreams throughout the US and the world. In retrospect, though, it’s little wonder considering the band’s composition of killer talent, now four-plus strong.
Leading the troupe is impassioned, soulful singer and songwriter Black Betty, who has shared the stage with such musical greats as Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks and Jack Pearson of Allman Brothers fame, Susan Tedeschi of the Tedeschi Trucks band and Jimmy Vivino from “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” Part vamp and part glamour girl, she is all-commanding in her on-stage deliveries and becomes pure sorceress spellbinding audiences with her searing hot vocals. To quote from her sizzling seductive rendition of ‘Fever’ -what a lovely way to burn.
Black Betty (lead vocalist/songwriter) and Joe Poppen (guitarist) were both inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame after their work with Charlies Sayles (harmonica) and Memphis Gold respectively. The band has been nominated for multiple Wammie awards.