I was at a blues fest awhile back, and Kelly Zirbes and her band of Perry Robertson-Rob Zucca/g, Matt McFadden/b, Robert Dill/dr, Pred Mandel/p, Bill Johnston/ts and Dave Welch/tp opened the show with a hard hitting set that sounded like a mix of Bonnie Raitt with Tedeschi-Trucks. Had to get a couple albums, so here is some stuff you’re gonna like if you wanna feel the dirt under your nails.
Kelly’s Lot’s latest album has the whole band along with pianist Teresa James who wasn’t at the gig. Kelly wrote all the songs with guitarist Perry Robertson, and the band sizzles from start to finish. Kelly herself has a sound and attitude of the barmaid that just hopped on stage and is gonna tell you about what she’s seen on the scene. She has a gritty yet clear voice, with just enough snarl on “Hush Up” or “That Fool” to make you sit up and listen. Her stories, such as “Stateside” and “Woman’s Love” are clever observations about life, and the grooves range from Memphis swamp to boogie ‘n blues. Zucca and Robertson deliver tasty and concise solos, and the horn section is as STAXY as you’d ever want. A definite band for smoky nights at the VFW.
The earlier album Pastrami & Jam has the band stripped down to just the essentials with out keys and horns. Most of the tunes are covers, ranging from a vulnerable a cappella “Mercedes Benz” to a haunting guitar laden “House of the Rising Sun.” The team develops a hip lick as they get a bit aggressive on the pop hit “Mockingbird” and Zirbes oozes on “Why Don’t You Do Right.” Bonnie Raitt’s “Give It Up Or Let Me Go” sounds authentic, as does Melissa Etheridge’s “Let Me Go,” while her own “Just a Heart” gives a hint of her writing talent that gets better exposed on the more recent release. I’d love to hear this band do covers of Free tunes, but their own stuff stands up on its own. Gotta love ‘em.