Many young blues revival singers at local nightclubs offer an enjoyable imitation of classic blues vocalists. But Billy Price, a young singer from Pittsburgh who fronts the Keystone Rhythm Band, is the real thing.
When Price takes the stage and leans into the mike, his voice erupts with emotional intensity and finely honed phrasing that make him a legitimate heir to the tradition of Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.
Price's first album "Is it Over?" captured only a fraction of that stage power. "They Found Me Guilty," recorded in the fall of 1981 but released only a few weeks ago, captures much more of Price's power but not nearly all of what he can do now.
Nonetheless, "They Found Me Guilty" is valuable as the best recorded evidence we have of this great voice. Rather than recycle the well-worn Cooke and Wilson classics, Price has dug deep into the Memphis soul bag to pull out rare chestnuts by Johnnie Taylor, O. V. Wright, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Al Green. Pushed by the tight rhythm section and punchy unison horns of the Keystone Rhythm Band, these songs carry Price's voice at a runaway gallop, especially Wright's "A Nickel and a Nail" and Green's "I Feel Good."
Price's biggest liability is still a lack of strong original material. Guitarist Keith Grimes' two songs don't measure up to the oldies.
The album's highlight is the closing 11- minute medley in which Price ingenuously works two Memphis oldies into his own captivating monologue. With great timing, he describes a dream in which he is arrested and taken before "The Jury of Love." As the horns build, Price suddenly cries out: "They Found Me Guilty!" ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM BILLY PRICE -- They Found Me Guilty (Green Dolphin GD7582). THE SHOW BILLY PRICE with the Keystone Rhythm Band at The Bayou, Monday and Tuesday.