With a crew like the one on this album—George Porter Jr., Art and Ivan Neville, Uganda Roberts, Jimmy Carpenter and Irene Sage, to cite a few of the names—Billy Iuso could easily jam ’till the tape runs out, but good news is that he doesn’t.
Instead, he follows the lead of 2013’s Naked, and puts the instrumental heavyweights to the service of a smart and heartfelt batch of tunes. With most of the tracks around four minutes, concise expression is the order of the day. At times, the players’ recognizable styles come through—you can hear some signature Porter licks on “She Moves That Way” and Ivan Neville’s clavinet kicking off “Turn Around”—but only when the songs call for them, and these songs are worth the attention they get.
You can guess from the lyrics that Iuso’s had a difficult year. Most of the songs are about finding solace after a rough patch (the spooky instrumental “Inner Demons” and the funky “Been Through Hell,” which could be about a divorce or about Jesus, are the album’s centerpiece). But the music feels hopeful, not least because Iuso has an appealing voice and a knack for a melody.
His reference points seem to be in vintage British blues-rock—and not just because he lyrically quotes the Yardbirds on “Turn Around.” There’s also “She Moves That Way,” which has the kind of haunting chorus that Steve Winwood was writing in his heyday. And the title song, which Art Neville co-wrote, has him playing a swirling Hammond part that’s more Traffic than Meters.
The disc ends with a solo acoustic treatment of “Police & Thieves” that’s nothing like the familiar Junior Murvin or Clash versions, taking away the bravado to find the underlying lament.