jazz & blues music blog with news, reviews, concerts & more, with a Canadian focus

January 18, 2006

Canadian Gospel CD Review

Written by
cindy mcleod

CD Review – Gospel
The Joy Riders
Where Would I Be Without You?
BBG Records/2005

The Joy Riders may be the most aptly named trio in history. Their 2005 R&B/gospel release Where Would I Be Without You? is truly a joyful listening experience. With fifteen gospel and inspirational tracks ranging from blues to jazz, rock & roll to rhythm & blues; there is something for everyone.

The trio, formed of long time Calgary musicians Marie Bridge (vocals), Guy Plecash (keyboards, vocals) and John Reid (tenor sax, flute); have added a full dimension of musical flavours to this project. Plecash and bassist Dahl Caldwell, drummer Ryan Herzog, and guitarist Tim Pearson round out the rhythm section; with trumpeter Bob Day taking a horn section seat; and the standout backup vocals of Claire Agnew and Claire Flynn (Radio City) creating a rich presence alongside Plecash and Bridge. The sum is a well thought out recording that is filled with surprises.

Plecash offers two of his compositions to the project, with Lesser Light/Lunar Blues and Resurrection Boogie. The balance covers a full spectrum of songwriting, from the straight-ahead gospel of Wade in the Water, and How I Got Over, to jazz composer Moe Koffman’s Swingin’ Shephard Blues, and bluesman T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday among these tracks. All are given a new sound in these creative, contemporary reads.

Plecash is a groove-master, lending a meaty, organic nature to the whole, and acts as a catalyst (as well as Producer). Flexible and adept as a player, he is musical, funky, one fine singer, and a musician deserving of attention. Marie Bridge delivers a sincere, articulate vocal with great phrasing and versatility in her upper register. The way-up-tempo furies such as Keep Walkin’ On have her stretching her range assuredly. Her reading of Wonderful World is breathtakingly gentle and pure, with strong harmonic sensibilities. John Reid is perhaps best known in jazz circles, but his performance in this environment is first rate. He turns in rough and ready performances in the grittier stuff, with an edgy, beefy solo on Amazing Grace, and his jazz chops with his graceful jazz flute on Swingin’ Shephard Blues.

Other standout performances come from guitarist Tim Pearson, who shines throughout and contributes a raw, fiery presence. Bob Day provides a contrasting lyricism with his fluid style, while Dahl Caldwell and Ryan Herzog are a driving force, laying it down solidly. The vocals are the piece de resistance on this recording, with the alternating vocal and mixed chorus fattening up the sound, creating energy, excitement and building the tension.

The Joy Rider’s Where Would I Be Without You� is being marketed as “Christian recovery-based rhythm & blues”, but will sit comfortably in any music lover’s CD player. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself hitting the play button often.

For more information and product sales, email mariebridge@shaw.ca.

Cindy McLeod

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