Larry Griffith Band – Shake It Loose.
6 songs – 36 minutes.
Based in Atlanta, Larry Griffith is a gifted guitarist/songwriter who flies under the radar despite producing stellar original material in an unhurried soul-blues style. Whether he’s refashioning a New Orleans classic or delivering his own take on world events, his words are fresh and strike to the heart of the situation.
Griffith was born in Cincinnati and grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods the Queen City has to offer. One of 10 children raised by a single mother, he started writing songs at age nine, influenced by the music regularly streaming from record players in the three-story tenement where he lived. In his early teen years, the family relocated to the Walnut Hills section of the city, nearby legendary King Records, where Larry regularly spotted a plethora of music royalty – including James Brown, Freddie King, Bill Doggett and others – on the street and in town to record.
It was through one of those chance encounters at age 16 that Griffith’s life changed forever. Wesley Hargrove, a member of Hank Ballard’s Detroit-based band The Midnighters, took the young man under his wing and into the Federal Records studio to play drums on a demo session, an invitation that soon led to Larry embarking on stints as a session drummer who toured with bands on the weekend.
Griffith relocated to Atlanta in the early ‘90s, immersing himself in the local blues scene, but didn’t pick up the guitar until a vivid dream while in Clarksdale, Miss., a decade later. In the vision, he saw himself driving a crowd wild with his skills on the six-string, something he’d never fantasized about in real life. Back in Atlanta, he related the story to a bandmate, guitarist Chicago Joe Jones, who helped him acquire a $1 guitar and begin a quest that made that dream a reality.
Shake It Loose appears to be the third album in Griffith’s catalog, following High Wire Walkin’ in 2006 and Get Up in 2015. His only other release appears to be a single, entitled “You Can’t Turn A Hoochie Into A Housewife.” Larry wrote, arranged and produced all of the material on this one, backed by Mike Lowry on lead guitar, Tom Regeski on horns and Dana McCarthy on bass. Rashaan Griffith and Mike Milsap appear on keys and Rashaan and Steven Milsap deliver drums. And background vocals are provided by Sanctuary, consisting of Darshana Gettle, Tyra Tomlinson Beatty, Sharon Hill and Lavaida Monique.
The album kicks offer with a single-note guitar solo and choral introduction for “Keep Ridin’,” a song that’s based on Chick Willis’ “Stoop Down Mama.” While Willis’ lyrics were a simple plea for the lady to “let me see,” Larry’s words are a lot more direct while still remaining clean enough for radio airplay and sure to put a smile on your face. “Every King Needs A Queen,” a medium-slow statement that “every man needs someone to hold on to” as he professes his love for the woman at his side. “Need my baby in my arms,” he sings, “sayin’ everything is all right/And in that itsy bitsy moment/Well, well/Lies the meaning of my life.”
The tempo picks up slightly for “All I Really Wanna Do,” which continues the desire to remain at the lady’s side. The message is delivered through a warm call-and-response between Griffith and Sanctuary and features a strong mid-tune guitar solo and solid bass run toward the finish.
The slow blues “Our Love Is In Good Hands” carries the theme forward with a thinly veiled religious theme — in that the hands are clearly God’s without having to say so – while delivering a strong political message. He pulls no punches as he speaks out against police brutality, racial oppression, poverty and more, all the while remaining respectful and with his head held high. The one positive constant is the woman at his side.
“Ain’t Puttin’ Up” — which states: “I ain’t puttin’ up what you’re puttin’ down/You treat me like some Ringling Brothers clown” – speaks out against a woman who stumbles home drunk in the middle of the night before the uptempo title cut, “Shake It Loose,” ends the set with a positive affirmation to bring about a positive outcome by stirring things up, stated simply: “I’ll be the ladle/If you’ll be the soup.”
This package will please fans of soul-blues everywhere both for the quality of Griffith’s material and the overall quality production. Available through iTunes and CDBaby, it will leave you with a smile. The only drawback: The all-too-brief 36-minute disc will leave you craving more.
Review by Marty Gunther