LIFE BEHIND THE 8 BALL is the third CD release from Fat Danny and Hard Tymz. Fat Danny Bennett is known as the High Desert Bluesman because he lives on the fringes of some of the most god-forsaken land in California. Danny's home on the edge of Edwards Air Force base suffers from some of the hottest days and coldest nights known to man. It's enough to give anybody the Blues. Danny and long-time drummer Mike Burnes grew up on the mean streets of LA's Frogtown, a place where if you weren't in jail by the age of 16, you weren't trying. Fat Danny inherited his love of the Blues from his Arkansas family. A family that had gone through the Depression and World War II listening to equal parts of the cryin'-in-your-beer music of the Louisiana Hayride and the deep Southern Blues of John R and the Hossman on WLAC radio.
LIFE BEHIND THE 8 BALL is Fat Danny's strongest offering to date. "Pocketful of Blues" kicks off the album with a powerful, hard-rockin' up tempo Blues. It never sinks to the indulgence of Blues Rock. Danny's work is always about the story and the song. He says, "It don't matter how great your guitar solo is, if you aren't telling a story people can relate to, you don't have a Blues song." "Insurance Song" has the lazy country shuffle feel of a Jimmy Reed classic. He's got a woman so good she's about to love him to death. "High Maintenance" is a little change of pace for the Hard Tymz. They move into the New Orleans funk territory of the Neville Brothers with a tongue-in-cheek story of a fellow who's gotten a little over his head with his jet-set girl friend. It brings a smile to my face cause we've all been there. After the light mood of "High Maintenance", "Payin' for My Sins" takes you to a completely different place. Harpmeister Eric Brown kicks off the mournful mood with some nice melodic lines. This tune has the feel of the classic Duke-Peacock recordings of the late 50's. Fat Danny reaches deep down into his soul and realizes (maybe too late?) that all the transgressions of his youth have consequences. "Little Rock" is a candidly autobiographical story of Danny's family. It pulls no punches about where he comes from and how he feels about it. It's got a little of the style of some of the best Southern Blues bands like the Allman Brothers. Ever had such a bummer of a day you didn't know if you could go on anymore? Danny takes us inside one of the worst days of his life after his Mother died. "Walkin' with the Lord" is appropriately mounted in a gospel setting with a background choir and a swirling Hammond organ. Danny and Mike Burnes show off their jazz chops in a gem of tune called "Dangerous Man". Danny's lyrics are sung in the first person of the town bad-ass. Mike B gives the tune an infectious laid-back groove. Eric and Doyle provide some nice tight solos. The title track of the CD, "Life Behind the 8 Ball" gives us a look inside the life of hard-workin' man who is trying to do what he feels is right and is still getting his ass kicked by the system. It contains a hidden tribute to Eric Brown's and Pam Bennett's departed fathers. "Can I Count On Your Love?" is a look back at the red-hot shuffles of the '20's and 30's. The inspiration for this tune was guitar virtuoso Nick Lucas. It takes you to the world of flappers, flasks of gin, and open roadsters. The last tune, "Sugar Sandwich", makes a perfect bookend for the album. I won't give away the narrative of the song, but if you didn't grow up poor, a sugar sandwich is a treat your momma made of butter, sugar, and two slices of bread.
LIFE BEHIND THE 8 BALL was made using the recording techniques of those classic Chess sides, real musicians, playing together in the studio direct to analog tape. Fat Danny and the band feel that this CD is their strongest effort to date and an accurate representation of their live sound and Danny's songwriting abilities.
"All About Jazz"
LIFE BEHIND THE 8 BALL
By Jim Santella
Fat Danny Bennett calls the blues "a living, breathing form of music that's relevant to today." It's everywhere we look. He proves his point with a program of ten originals that set us to wondering about the things we live with every day. Hard Tymz was started in 1975. That's a lot of years to reflect upon the aspects of our daily lives that occupy our minds full-time. Bennett sings,
My hair is thin and gray.
Got a few less teeth in my head.
My knees don't work so good.
Nose is gettin' a little cherry red.
Lord, I'm payin' for my sins,
But all along I tried to taste it all.
His songs are a celebration of the lives that we all lead every day. The songs have a country feel that keeps each lyric's message firmly rooted at center stage. Blues harp, Hammond organ, bass, drums and backup singers make strong partners for Bennett's vocals and fiery guitar. Their cohesive interplay makes his country blues shine brightly with inspiration and empathy. Another lyric goes like this:
If things don't get better soon,
I think I'd rather be walkin' with the Lord.
"Life Behind the 8 Ball" paints a picture of the way we feel sometimes. Things don't always go right, and we often complain for days about it. It's always reassuring to know that others feel the same way. "Sugar Sandwich" begins with a searing electric guitar tantrum and proceeds to stroll with a loping meter that grabs at your heartbeat. The song's hard times message paints a bleak picture, but Bennett's Hard Tymz Blues Band provides vivid colors that linger. They drive this message, and all the others, directly home and provide solace in knowing that life goes on despite unexpected obstacles.
Reprinted with permission copyright 2005
www.AllAboutJazz.com & Jim Santella