Kindred spirits: Bobby “Blue” Bland,
Al Green, O.V Wright
Show: Friday at the Birchmere. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 703-549-7500. www.birchmere.com. $20.
When veteran vocalist and bandleader Billy Price sings “Sweet Soul Music” on his new album, “Strong,” he isn’t covering the 1967 Arthur Conley hit. It’s a different lyric with a similar message and a wonderfully evocative reminder that Price has remained true to his R&B roots.
But then, in one way or another, every track on “Strong” reflects Price’s unwavering passions. Some prime examples: B.B. King clearly inspires the singer’s emotionally restless version of “Part Time Love,” complete with requisite horns and a pitch-perfect guest appearance by guitarist Monster Mike Welch. “Never Get Enough” salutes its celebrated authors — James Brown, Fred Wesley and Bobby Byrd — with a concert-ready funk workout. There are welcome echoes of Memphis soul and Al Green, beginning with the album opener, Roosevelt Sykes’s mournful “Drivin’ Wheel.”
Price, however, co-wrote the majority of songs, including two highlights — the inspirational “Gotta Be Strong” and the cautionary “Diggin’ a Hole.” Throughout the album, performances benefit from Price’s road-tested, seven-piece band and from appearances by a few more notable guests, such as the Nighthawks’ Mark Wenner and Mark Stutso.
Of course, fans who have followed Price’s impressive but often overlooked career from the ’70s know that he’s at his best onstage. It’s a safe bet that several songs from the aptly titled “Strong” will make his upcoming shows all the more stirring.