[Disclosure: New Orleans treasure, Jimmy Carpenter is a friend. That said, I’d be dancing around and singing along to this record for a long time even if I had never heard his name, because this is one beautiful, fun, and funky CD. And, it’s sex on a stick. This is one of the sexiest records in my expansive collection. Walk Away is good. Very good.]
Although a well-known saxophone sideman for many a great Blues guitarist (Tinsley Ellis, Jimmy Thackery, Walter Wolfman Washington, and Mike Zito to name but a few), Carpenter has earned an impressive marquee value in his own right, and has sat in with more major blues names than I could list here. He’s also an accomplished composer, arranger, and lyricist, talents which present themselves empirically on each of Walk Away’s tracks.
Inspired by the past, present, and even future women in his life, the overall thesis of this record is that Mr. Carpenter loves the fairer sex. A lot. This CD represents Carpenter’s lifetime Odyssey on the seas of romance, and he bares it all, his vulnerability in evidence with every phrase. This is fearless writing which is what makes it so damn good. That and one of the sexiest voices since Tommy Castro. Nominated this year for a Blues Music Award honoring his Saxophone chops, this record informs that Carpenter’s vocals deserve similar recognition. Not to mention his wordsmithery. The man can turn a phrase.
The title track is a cheeky (pun intended) number that should go down in history as one of the greatest tributes to the female derrière since Queen’s 1978 hit “Fat Bottomed Girls” (although Carpenter’s is more intimately directed than the raucous Brian May-penned song). “Sometimes I wish you’d leave me, just so I can watch you walk away.” Now that’s a great phrase. There can be a thin line between honoring and objectifying, and Carpenter stays well within the realm of abject honor never sinking to vulgarity. But that doesn’t mean I can’t: Jimmy’s an ass man, pure and simple.
Here’s what blogger, Grant Britt,of nodepression.com, has to say in his review of the title cut: “Carpenter shows off his Muscle Shoals influences on “Walk Away,” snaky, funky soul with King Curtis-inspired riffs. Former Dr John and the Lower 911 guitarist John Fohl provides Cornell Dupree licks as Carpenter howls soulfully, “sometimes I wish you'd leave me so I could watch you walk away.”
And there’s a really sexy sax solo too. Rather than risk repetition, here’s a bit more of what Grant Britt had to say about the CD: “He pays homage to Curtis again on the instrumental “C King Blues,” smooth, soulful honkery gliding over that kudzu covered wall of Muscle Shoals laid back, deep southern honeyed old school r&b groove.
Carpenter's duet with Reba Russell on the closer, “Fellow Traveler” is stunning. The vocal harmony is ethereal, ringing with the grace of a Carter family offering. It's what country ought to be, one foot in the past and one in the present, crossing over effortlessly from gospel to country to soul.
Sandwiched in between are testimonials to a bevy of beautiful babes who have stepped on his heart, leaving footprints of varying depth. “She's Not You” has a Hall and Oates feel with it's bluesy, melancholy soul. “More Than Meets the Eye” addresses a chance almost blown because a pretty facade covered up an interior treasure with more lasting power and depth.”
The third track, “When You’re Ready,” is so fun, hot, and enticing that the mind can’t help but revisit our own similar experiences, and with this particular song, we’ve all been right there, letting an object of our affections know that the door is open, “When You’re Ready.” And once again, he redefines sexy.
“She’s Not You” is both gorgeous and utterly heartbreaking. Who hasn’t experienced this, both as the one who can’t forget someone who is “a hard act to follow, ” and the one trying to follow that act? It’s a double whammy on the unfairness of matters of the heart. She’s great, she’s just not you. Ouch.
For me, the sultry, jazzy “Hard to be Cool” is hard to beat. It’s one of my favorites, particularly as in his insistence that it’s “hard to be cool, when I love you like I do,” is a marked dichotomy in that with this number, he’s at his coolest.
“Favorite Muse” is the song that speaks to me the most on this record. It’s perfection, and that’s all I’ll say.
This CD flows without interruption, with the two jumping instrumentals offered up right when you need them. And then there’s the final song. The last track, “Fellow Traveler” is everything Grant Britt wrote and then some: Fellow Traveler, duet, countryish. Carpenter's duet with Reba Russell on the closer, “Fellow Traveler” is stunning. The vocal harmony is ethereal, ringing with the grace of a Carter family offering. It's what country ought to be, one foot in the past and one in the present, crossing over effortlessly from gospel to country to soul.
Yes, and it’s also brilliantly placed, at the conclusion of a one-man journey over the potholes and pitfalls of love and romance, and with that genius pairing of voices, Carpenter reminds us that the fairer sex has her stories as well, and that he might even be the subject of a few of them.
There are thirteen tracks on this CD, and all are good, grooving songs, inspiring movement. On my fifth (or was it sixth?) listen, I managed to clean the entire kitchen, including mopping the floor. I can’t sit still with this CD. And I can’t stop listening. Nor do I wish to.
The heartbreaks are all here, the unrequited love, the one that got away, the ones that simply moved on, and yet there is not one syllable of bitter indictment toward any of the women who’ve left imprints of heartache on Carpenter; instead he celebrates them and everything they brought to his life with abandon, as it should be. Walk Away serves as a subtle reminder that we survive the slings and arrows of love’s outrageous fortune and live to tell about them. Jimmy Carpenter tells great stories of his own heart’s survival, and we are better for it.
For more information on Jimmy Carpenter, visit http://www.jimmycarpenter.net. He has a long and storied history in the Blues. And order Walk Away. You’ll thank me. ~Honey Sepeda~