THE LUCKY LOSERS
FEATURING CATHY LEMONS AND PHIL BERKOWITZ
A WINNING HAND
WEST TONE RECORDS WTR 1504
CHANGE IN THE WEATHER–I TAKE WHAT I WANT–WHAT HAVE I DONE–A WINNING HAND–SUICIDE BY LOVE–WHAT WAS IT YOU WANTED–WHAT IS SUCCESS–LONG HARD ROAD–BABY YOU GOT WHAT IT TAKES–CRY NO MORE–DETROIT CITY MAN–DON’T YOU LOSE IT
Texas-born Cathy Lemons has been a fixture on the Bay Area blues scene for some twenty-five years, performing with the likes of Tommy Castro and John Lee Hooker, with three albums to her credit. Phil Berkowitz is another great San Fran-based harpman and vocalist, and he and Cathy have combined their considerable talents, naming themselves The Lucky Losers, and releasing “A Winning Hand” on West Tone Records.
This set combines originals from both players and some rarely-heard covers to make for a cool exercise in classic blues, New Orleans funk, and R & B, with a little bitta jazz. The festivities kick off with the horn section leading the way in a shot of Stax-styled soul, “Change In The Weather.” This cut reminds us to stay positive and “get back in the rat race” and “live for one more day.” Ben Rice adds slide guitar on the N’Awlins groove of Alan Toussaint’s “What Is Success,” with that funky piano courtesy of Chris Burns.
Cathy and Phil get in some fine duets, too. Phil sets the “tone,” literally, on the big ol’ chromatic harp as he and Cathy romp thru Sam and Dave’s “I Take What I Want.” The mood turns downright playful as they cover the Brook Benton and Dinah Washington chestnut, “Baby, You Got What It Takes!”
Steve Freund adds guitar on Cathy’s original title track, and it has a Neil Young vibe throughout. Cathy and Phil close the set on another note of perserverance, “Don’t You Lose It.”
We had two favorites, too. Brush-stroked drums and Cathy’s smoky, sultry vocal on “Suicide By Love” deals with the consequences of life’s excesses, be it “suicide by drink, suicide by drugs, suicide by gamblin’ or suicide by love!” And, the story of a no-good “Detroit City Man” has that “endless boogie” drive of another famous Detroit native, John Lee Hooker. Both these cuts feature outstanding guitar from the set’s producer, Kid Andersen.
No matter what may be your taste in blues, Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz, as The Lucky Losers, have laid down “A Winning Hand” that make us all the lucky winners! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow