CD Review - Tommy Lepson Band 'Putty and Paint'

Friday, May 1, 2009

TOMMY LEPSON BAND "Putty and Paint" Powerhouse

ON "PUTTY AND PAINT," veteran singer and keyboardist Tommy Lepson sticks to what he does best. The result is as sturdy and welcome as a classic soul ballad.

Certainly longtime fans won't be disappointed with this 14-track collection. Besides assembling a colorful mix of vintage and original tunes for his tight, R&B-bred quartet, Lepson sings with the full-throated power that has earned him a barrel of Wammie awards over the years. The familiar tunes cover a lot of ground. Chuck Willis's signature lament "I Feel So Bad," later recorded by Elvis Presley, inspires a freshly layered blend of blues and funk. Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" proves a potent showcase for Lepson's Hammond B-3 organ and John Bell's soaring guitar flights. And an anguished rendition of Nils Lofgren's "No Return" provides additional proof that Lepson's voice is as strong and expressive as ever. His songwriting also shines, by turns defiant ("Cold Hearted Woman"), sinuously evocative (the Santana-esque instrumental "Para Mi Hija") and cleverly barbed (the album's title track).

Several notable Washington-based musicians lend a hand, too. Singer Mary Ann Redmond and Nighthawks blues harp player Mark Wenner are among the guests contributing color and depth to this thoroughly enjoyable studio session.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Wednesday at Blues Alley (202-337-4141, Shows start at 8 and 10 p.m. Also appearing May 9 at Rams Head Shore House in Stevensville, Md. (410-643-2466, Show starts at 9 p.m.

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