CD Review
Earl Thomas
The Elector Studio Sessions
By Issac Lassiter
©Copyright 2017 SDAM.com/Isaac Lassiter

    Earl Thomas's latest CD, "The Elector Studio Sessions", sounds exactly like the down home studio session that Earl's fans would expect. Along with a rollicking back-up band, Earl explores eleven songs backed by his musical inspiration, his mother Jewell, on vocals. Jewell brought along the instrumental shining star of this album, Lela Freeman, from Pikesville, Tennessee on the Hammond B3 organ. Though you can tell at more than one point that this album was put together from unfinished studio sessions (see the fluctuating overall volume between Tk.2-3, and the back-up vocals being mixed unevenly toward the end of Tk.5), the raw feeling that always pervades Earl's work is powerfully accentuated by the presence of these two guiding lights of his musical life. "Lord Have Mercy" begins with a hilarious conversational interchange between Jewell and Lela, seemingly late in one of the session's nights. One says to the other, "You smell like you've been drinkin'", right before rolling into this spiritual about mercy and Daniel in the Lion's Den. In my personal favorite, "Lead a Horse to Water", the music gains poetic distance from the albums more direct themes of spirituality and love, and gets your foot tappin' to a rhythm that reeks of a Tennessee church tune gone funky. "I've been the victim of strange circumstances, I thought the parties over and it'd just begun…there is only one thing I've been lookin' for, and I haven't found it yet." Earl drops these thoughtful funk lines behind an entrancing rhythm that draws from the ageless African-roots soul of churches in the deep south, but pops with music that is way up to date and very, very tight. Strong writing comes through at a number of key points in this album, and though he occasionally slips into that classic love-song mode, Earl certainly gets at writing well. "You can lead a man to knowledge, but you can't make him think/You can lead a horse to water, but you know you can't make him drink." "The Elector Studio Sessions", dedicated to the memory of Jewell (1937-2001), has to be a defining moment in the musical development of this San Diego blues legend. He moves you more than ever, and the man is rocking in his prime with his momma singin' backup. You can't ask for more soul than that, from Earl, or any man. Earl is a local guy that has offered you an exceedingly raw, intriguing package that will rarely make it through all of the filters to your ears, and here it is. Find this album, and put it in your book.

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