The Phantom Blues Band was originally formed as a studio band to back up Taj Mahal on his 1993 cd "Dancin' The Blues." They backed Taj Mahal for over a decade, traveling all over the world and winning two Grammys and a W.C. Handy Blues Award. "Inside Out" is their third cd with the group on their own--their previous efforts are "Out Of The Shadows" (2006) and "Footprints" (2007), both on Delta Groove Records. This new disc is on Vizztone, and it features the same core band members--Tony Braunagel on drums and percussion, Larry Fulcher on bass on vocals, Mike Finnegan on keyboards and vocals, Darrell Leonard on trumpets, Joe Sublett on saxes, Johnny Lee Schell on guitar and vocals. Special guests on "Inside Out" include Lenny Castro on percussion, Joe Sample on keyboards, Denny Freeman on guitar, and Reed Noble on vocal. As is true every time the Phantom Blues Band makes a cd, everything is tight and soulful and the songs are in a variety of styles. The band members wrote the majority of the songs, and there are some interesting covers: Smokey McCallister's "I Can't Stand It," Charlie Rich's "Feel Like Goin Home," Dave Bartholomew's "Little Fernadez," Doc Pomus's "Boogie-Woogie Country Girl," and Jimmy McCracken's "Shame Shame" all receive the Phantom Blues Band treatment and come out sounding great. Only on the Son House song "Death Letter" does the band struggle a bit--and I think that is because there's not enough for everybody in the band to do on this so-often-overplayed song. I think my favorite song changes with each listen--but today I really like the way everybody in the band seems to dig in and give a great performance on the Fulcher/Sublett song "So Far From Heaven." The first time I heard it I wasn't all that impressed, but with each additional listen I get more impressed. I don't know any other band who could play it as well.
Other than that slight stumble trying to do Son House, this is a really great record. As Sirius/XM BB King's blues channel's Bill Wax says in the promo sheet, "One of the best I have heard in the last few years. I could comfortably play all the songs on it."
You can buy this cd at http://www.phantombluesband.com