Drawing from a deep well of soul, rock, and blues influences, California-born, New Orleans-based singer/guitarist Eric Lindell seems capable of handling any tune, any riff, any time. He considers himself an "old soul from California reinventing New Orleans R&B." He and his band make their return to the Charleston area this week in support of terrific new collection seemingly sprinkled with authentic gris-gris magic.
Longtime blues label Alligator Records (www.alligator.com) signed Lindell, 37, in 2006, calling him a "roots rocker with dozens of original songs that combine soul-shaking rhythm and blues, reggae grooves, swamp-pop and blues." The singer/guitarist's solid debut, Change in the Weather, hit the streets in October. The album reflects some of the gritty Crescent City style that inspired the guitarist in his recently-adopted home of New Orleans. His experience jamming with various funk and jazz masters — from the Marsalis and Neville families to members of Galactic and War — paid off.
The New Orleans Times Picayune called the 14-song disc, "stellar, sublime, blue-eyed soul and romping New Orleans R&B." That's pretty right-on. From the reggae and wah-wah guitar pedal grooves of "Two Bit Town" and "Cassanova" to the hard-funk, Meters-inspired syncopation of "Should Have Known," there's plenty of romp and stomp throughout. Lindell's raspy howl and croon effectively accents the soul-flavored stuff of the cowbell-driven "Sunny Daze" (the most War-like jam in the bunch) and harmonica-tinged "Give it Time." A little bit of Caribbean, a little bit of vintage urban, the bluesy mix reflects the cultural creole of his adopted hometown.
"Lindell's songs are cliché-free, completely original and yet have an instant familiarity to them," says Alligator Records guy Chris Levick. "The laid-back grooves and hook-laden melodies hint of 1970s-era Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen, but are not throwbacks as much as they are powerful, rootsy, thought-provoking and danceable contemporary songs. Traces of Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Ray Charles, and Sly & The Family Stone can be found in Eric's originals, with foot-stomping grooves coming around every corner and horns punching in all the right places."
The core of the band features Lindell on vocals, electric guitar, harmonica, and keys; a fellow named A-Ron on bass and vocals; and slide guitarist/singer Chris Mule. Special guest musicians on Change in the Weather include keyboardist Ivan Neville, drummer Harold Brown (of War), and Galactic bassist Rob Mercurio.
According to Lindell, "The fact that these amazing people are so complimentary to me and my music means the world to me."
In October, Lindell will be a featured performer — alongside Taj Mahal, Elvin Bishop, Bobby Rush, Lowrider Band, Tommy Castro, Marcia Ball, and others — on a seven-day Rhythm & Blues Cruise leaving from San Diego and touring the Mexican Riviera. This week's set at the 'Jammer may be one of the last times to catch this rising blues star in an intimate setting. Hit it and get down.