Empire Roots Band review…Dec. 28, 2014…

THE EMPIRE ROOTS BAND

MUSIC FROM THE FILM

HARLEM STREET SINGER

ACOUSTIC SESSION RECORDS  ASC 220

KEEP YOUR LAMP TRIMMED AND BURNING–SEARCH MY HEART–MEAN OLD WORLD–THERE’S DESTRUCTION IN THIS LAND–SOON MY WORK WILL BE ALL DONE–TRYING TO GET HOME–SUNDAY CHURCH MEDLEY/BANKS OF THE RIVER/LET US GET TOGETHER–HESITATION–TWELVE GATES TO THE CITY–I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD/I BELONG TO THE BAND–ORANGITANG RAG

The Empire Roots Band is a quartet of some of New York’s finest blues musicians.  They consist of Dave Keyes on piano, Bill Sims, Jr., on vocals, Brian Glassman on bass, and Woody Mann on guitar, who learned guitar from the Rev. Gary Davis himself, which forms the premise for this set.  It is the soundtrack of the film “Harlem Street Singer,” of which Woody was one of the producers, which celebrates the life and times and spirit of Rev. Davis, and his immense contributions to the blues and gospel world.

Bill’s rich, resonant vocals bring the soul and spirit of the Reverend and his music to life, and the acoustic arrangements remain authentic to the era in which this music was created.  Anyone familiar with the Reverend’s music probably already have their own favorites, but this band really mixes the blues and gospel very effectively.

They lead off with the soul-stirring “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning,” while Dave’s acoustic piano brings out the blues in “Mean Old World,” and Bill’s vocal evokes the gospel feel of the song.  The somber “Soon My Work Will Be All Done” is another highlight, as was our personal favorite, “There’s Desruction In This Land,” with its stark reminder to “keep your ticket in your hand!” This one has some sweet call-and-response and a fine break at the bridge featuring Dave’s piano, then Woody’s guitar.

The Empire Roots Band do a faithful job of bringing the sounds of the Rev. Gary Davis to vibrant life, and the soundtrack to “Harlem Street Singer” showcases their talent fo giving this music the spirit needed to be appreciated!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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