|In times of crisis musicians are always among the first to respond when the call goes out for volunteers to lend their time and talents to aid a benefit for a cause. Guitarist Chris Daniels, leader of Colorado Music Hall of Fame band Chris Daniels and the Kings, was asked to perform a virtual concert for Inner City Health, he did not hesitate. The organization’s mission is to reduce the inequity of health and wellness access and delivery in underserved populations of Denver.
For two online sessions during the pandemic, Daniels was joined by Hazel Miller on vocals and Dana Marsh on keys, forming a trio to record ten songs that produced What We Did. Daniels invited a collection of friends and cohorts to add to the tracks including vocalist Freddi Gowdy, guitarist Todd Park Mohr (Big Head Todd and the Monsters), Greg Garrison (Leftover Salmon) and International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame mandolin player Sam Bush, plus acclaimed bassist, and author Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) and drummer, Christian Teele, best known for his work as the house drummer for the internationally syndicated radio show, eTown. In addition, one of classic rock’s most sought after bass players, Kenny Passarelli, and fellow Colorado musicians, Tom Capek on Hammond B3 with Mark Oblinger and Linda Lawson adding background vocals, round out the album of faithful readings and adventurous interpretations of original songs and sing-along classics.
The party gets started with The Doobie Brothers 1976 anthem of peace and unity, “Takin’ It To The Streets,” with Miller and Gowdy sharing vocal duties and Wooten providing lead bass for the rousing opener. The tempo of Albert King’s electric blues standard “Born Under A Bad Sign” is slowed to a smoldering R&B groove giving the singers more room to work the lyrical phrasing and Big Head Todd a wide pallet for his spacious guitar leads. Daniels and Miller play Fred and Ginger, while Bush displays nimble fret work on the soft shoe classic “Cheek To Cheek.”
The crew steps into the Buena Vista Social Club for an acoustic run down of the romantic salsa number, “I’m Still Lookin’,” from Chris Daniels & The Kings’ 2004 album, The Spark, featuring fine piano work from Marsh. Miller and her formidable vocal chops take us to church for the emotional offertory “Could You Believe,” from the Al Jarreau catalog. George Weiss wrote the song “What A Wonderful World,” specifically for Louis Armstrong after being inspired by Armstrong’s ability to bring people of different races together. The song has become synonymous with hope and optimism and was a natural fit for Daniels and Miller to include on the collection, as it emulates the ideals of Inner City Health.
The party gets jumping for a fun-loving cover of ZZ Hill’s “Down Home Blues” with Capek throwing down greasy organ and Daniels firing back with sizzling slide guitar and Mohr on Stratocaster answering the call. The duo of Daniels and Miller have fun on the bawdy duet “Stealin’ Candy” and the timeless Carol King/James Taylor ballad “You’ve Got A Friend,” is delivered like genuine troubadours. The album closes with the title track to Daniels 2012 solo album, “Better Days,” the acoustic hymn serving as an optimistic benediction.
Because of the selfless efforts of Daniels and friends, proceeds from What We Did will help Inner City Health make a difference for as many people as they can.
Rick J Bowen
Chris Daniels formed The Kings in 1984 and was joined by Freddi Gowdy of the Freddi Henchi Band in 2012. He’s been described by the Los Angeles Times as “John Hiatt meets Tower of Power” and by Westword as “Keb’ Mo’ with horns.” The seven-piece band has won awards for releasing some of the best horn-drenched rock ‘n’ soul records from Colorado to Amsterdam. In 2013 Daniels was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2013 (Freddi in 2019 for his years as co-founder and lead singer in the Colorado funk sensation The Freddi Henchi Band).
Chris is celebrating all our coming out of COVID with What We Did, a duets album with Hazel Miller that answers the question of what occupied our musical energy in 2020. CD & The Kings’ last album, Blues With Horns Vol 1, stayed in the top 40 on the Roots Music Report Album Chart for more than 35 straight weeks, reaching #1 in October 2018. Chris Daniels was a co-nominee for a Grammy Award in 2013 and has been a two-time “Excellence in Teaching” award winning professor at CU Denver for the past 17 years. He served as the Director of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame from 2018 to 2020. Chris was the Director of Swallow Hill Music in the early part of this century (that’s why they call it Daniels Hall) and he is also a cancer survivor and the MC of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival this past June.
Hazel Miller “is a force of nature!” quotes the Rocky Mountain News. Her voice has been called “stunning, moving and powerful.” Hazel has been a sought-after performer in Colorado for the past 30 years, including singing the national anthem at the inauguration of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and with artists like Lumineers, String Cheese Incident and on the eTown radio show. For the past 19 years Ms. Miller has toured with Big Head Todd and the Monsters all over the world and this new album (What We Did) contains magical performances with her long-time keyboard partner Dana Marsh from Hazel’s band The Collective.