|Drummer, singer and blues DJ River City Slim formed The Mighty Soul Drivers with singer-songwriter and New England Music Hall Of Fame inductee Bob Orsi in 2012, presenting a high-caliber show featuring the classic soul sounds of Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and all points South. The group’s second album, I’ll Carry You Home, celebrates ten years of bringing their collective joy and energy for this music to the people, showcasing seven new original tunes along with four carefully chosen covers.
“I Can’t Get Next to You” was a #1 single for the Temptations and Motown Records in 1969 and a blueprint for power soul. The Mighty Soul Drivers make a bold move by opening the album with a tune others would save for an encore, putting their own bump and grind spin on the showstopper. Orsi penned the title track “I’ll Carry You Home” as an homage to the sweet love songs of yesteryear. The head-bopping “Party By The Tower,” takes us back to the day when blues legend James Cotton held court at the historic Shaboo Inn and inspired a generation to dedicate themselves to the blues. Orsi talks about living on the edge during the driving “A Little Bit Of That,” as the band tosses around hot solos. MSD honors their long association with soul queen Betty Harris on a faithful reading of her signature song “Cry To Me,” and further demonstrates mastery of the genre by taking on “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog” from the Bobby “Blue” Bland catalog.
New England Music Hall Of Fame inductee guitarist Paul Gabriel drops in a tasty solo as special guest on the funkified “Cold Cold Night” and Orsi has a little fun delivering “Tell Daddy,” the original version of the Muscle Shoals classic most associate with Etta James that was first recorded by Clarence Carter, a sure-fire highlight of the bands live show with its signature horn line. Slim’s bittersweet elegy for a clandestine affair, “Parking Lot Blues,” echoes the classic cheating songs of James Carr and Little Johnny Taylor.
Keyboardist Donovan leads the crew with his honkytonk piano on the swinging baby-done-me-wrong song “Piece Of My Pride,” taking a slick solo after Smayda blows his baritone sax. Orsi and Donovan co-wrote the album closer, “Dressed To Kill” as an East Bay funk-styled theme song for The Mighty Soul Drivers spelling out the bands MO as sharply dressed soul men on a mission, “Got it all goin’ on, got it like that.” This strong recording, I’ll Carry You Home, shows just how much fun The Mighty Soul Drivers are having delivering their own brand of rockin’ Memphis Soul and down in the alley blues.
Rick J Bowen
The Mighty Soul Drivers are New England’s keepers of the Memphis Soul flame. Years of playing all kinds of gigs from major festival stages to corner taverns has honed each member’s skills to a fine edge. They mine the deepest old Soul nuggets and breathe new life into them while finding the cream of Memphis-styled contemporary tunes and creating their own soulful originals. Over the last ten years the band underwent a couple of key personnel changes and fine-tuned the repertoire, evolving into the seven-piece powerhouse of today.
Along the way The Mighty Soul Drivers have performed at music festivals from Musikfest in Bethlehem PA to the New England Blues Summit in Sturbridge MA. They’ve played major clubs like Daryl’s House in Pawling NY and The Knickerbocker in Westerly RI while remaining regular favorites at New England’s two top Blues clubs, Black-Eyed Sally’s in Hartford CT and Theodore’s in Springfield MA. The MSD were finalists in the CT Blues Society’s Blues Challenge in 2012 and 2014 and won the 2015 Challenge representing CT at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January 2016. Their debut recording “Qualified!” received rave reviews at home and in Europe.
Bob Orsi – vocals Veteran front man Bob Orsi’s dramatic vocals have driven the success of bands from CT’s legendary Scratch Band (which also featured future stars G.E. Smith and Christine Ohlman) to the award-winning D. Smith Blues Band. Bob is also an accomplished rhythm guitarist who brings an extra dimension to several of the songs.
River City Slim – drums After singing and playing harp as the front man for The Blues Blasters throughout the 90’s, Slim has led The Zydeco Hogs as they brought the sound of Louisiana Zydeco and Blues to the Northeast. Slim has been spreading the Soul, Blues and R&B gospel over the air for 25 years as a DJ on WWUH and WAPJ. The idea for The Mighty Soul Drivers had been kicking around in the back of his mind for a while when he crossed paths with Bob at a CT Blues Society jam session in early 2012 and finally put the wheels in motion.
Larry Willey – guitar Crowd-pleasing guitarist Larry Willey has led Blues and R&B bands for years, including The Working Band and The Blues Talkers. After witnessing the excitement of the Blues and R&B pioneers at the legendary Shaboo Inn in its 1970’s heyday, Larry cut his musical teeth with CT Blues pioneers The Albert Otis Band and has been a fixture on the CT Blues and R&B scene ever since.
Tony Delisio – bass Tony has held down the bottom for a number of popular Southern New England bands, most notably the George T. Gregory Band. Tony also worked with War harmonica great Lee Oskar and has done session work with a variety of artists. Besides collaborating with The Mighty Soul Drivers, he also fronts his own trio Groove Section.
Steve Donovan – keyboards Veteran keyboard man Steve Donovan returned to his native CT after many years in the Los Angeles area. Steve has appeared with a who’s who of West Coast R&B and Jazz bands, and now brings his great keyboard stylings to The Mighty Soul Drivers as well as leading his own Jazz trio.
John Smayda – saxophone Mild-mannered clockmaker by day, leather-lunged R&B sax honker by night — whether he’s got the tenor or the baritone in his hands, John adds a deep dimension to The Mighty Soul Drivers’ sound. John’s musical resume wouldn’t even fit on this page but suffice to say he’s been with bands from the legendary Linda & The Loveletters to The Kathy Thompson Band. He’s also been part of the pit orchestra in theaters as diverse as the Oakdale, Goodspeed Opera House, and The Bushnell in Hartford. You may have even seen him with the Moscow Circus!
Neil Tint – trumpet Neil put his horn in storage for a while to work and raise a family, but he’s dusted off the fedora and white linen jacket to round out the MSD horn section. You may have also seen him occasionally lurking in the horn section with The Savage Brothers, Measured Soul and Flashback.