Bruce Mississippi Johnson’s The Deal Baby is one of those albums that will have you asking what is this? Yes, there is some blues influence here; but what it really is a funky soul album and a direct successor of the classics by the likes of Al Green, Jackie Wilson, Lou Rawls and Gil Scott-Heron. He may hail from Mississippi originally but after spending some time singing for B.B. King’s bass player, the late Big Joe Tuner, in his Parisian based Blues Caravan he has formed a strong bond with bandmate and Turner keyboardist Johan Dalgaard that has resulted in this self-released debut solo album.
This is not a guitar fueled blues rock album. This is something different – a collection of some spectacular soul signing by Bruce and a funky first rate backing band with some creative arrangements and some great horns. Bruce’s deep baritone evokes some Barry White with the opening track “Let It Rain” (Intro) and returns at the end with “Let It Rain” (outro).
The album has some smooth laid-back grooves like “Years, Tears” and the introspective “No Good” with its spoken word “rap” break as he describes being busted by his wife walking in while he is with the other woman at dinner who is also dumping him at that same moment. “See You Tomorrow” is an emotional roller coaster of a song. They go separate ways one evening and when he finally gets home the next morning, he is “madder than a bitch” because she’s not home. Later that day he gets the phone call telling him that she died and he’s left to deal with the funeral and the question of “How can you See Me Tomorrow if You’re Gone Gone Gone.”
There are more upbeat tracks also like “That’s The Deal Baby” about his trials trying to keep up with her shopaholic lifestyle. John Dalagaard delivers some nice piano at the first solo that is followed up by a funky breakdown for the next lyric. Meanwhile, “I Can’t Shake The Blues” is a straight up funky ride with some great horns. While “Freak On or Die” does not hide its theme with any double entendre.
The two-standout tracks though are dealing with difficult relationships. “I’m Gonna Bring Your Game Down” is his confrontation with someone who is trying to seduce his wife. “The Neighbour Next Door” has the most guitar work, which is entirely fitting since there is a Robert Cray feel to this track. First, he notices that his neighbor has kicked out her husband when he sees the locksmith pulling away because she found out he was cheating on her. Things take a twist when he is blindsided by his wife and finds out that it was with his wife!
This is not your typical blues rock album that we cover on Blues Rock Review. However, it is worth picking up just for Bruce’s soulful voice alone. Add the nostalgic feel of the ’70s funky soul from which this album is a clear descendant and you have something different, a”blues” that everyone should appreciate. As Bruce says, “The blues is love and love is the blues. Let it rain. Let it rain. May your blues be few.” Let’s all hope that he has plenty more blues to share with us.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– I’m Gonna Bring Your Game Down
– The Neighbour Next Door
– See You Tomorrow
– No Good
The Big Hit
– The Neighbour Next Door
Review by Kevin O’Rourke
Buy the album: Amazon