PAT SMILLIE - “LAST CHANCE” (Fat Bank Music, SPRING 2021)
With “LAST CHANCE” (Fat Bank Music), Detroit-born songwriter Pat Smillie, has delivered an album built upon his open vision of soul, blues, and American roots music. The album showcases his ability to traverse a variety of genres including rock, blues, and soul, in a manner that is reminiscent of his earliest influences including Joe Cocker, Otis Redding, Delbert McClinton, and Detroit’s iconic soul rocker, Mitch Ryder. In addition, the album contains some of the strongest compositions of Smillie’s career - highlighting his gift for storytelling across an array of musical backdrops, including classic 50s-60s r&b, early Detroit rock & roll, West side Chicago blues, and soul-kissed Americana.
Produced by Motor City Josh (a.k.a. Josh Ford) and Pat Smillie, “LAST CHANCE” is an album whose charms slowly reveal themselves over repeated listenings. A rare document that captures the artist in creative bloom. Written and recorded entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, these songs are the glorious result of time well spent.
PLAY THIS ALBUM LOUD & OFTEN!
“HEART IN A HEADLOCK” is a brass-driven, Motown-inspired thumper that features Keith Kaminski (saxophones) and Walter White (trumpet). At just over 3 minutes in duration, the song sounds as if it could have been written for The Four Tops. “SOMETHING ON MY HEART” is a mid-tempo ballad reminiscent of Otis Clay’s early 70’s tenure on Hi Records. The primary difference being that the song’s warm Memphis-style backbeat eventually slips into an extended, jazz-inflected groove with pianist Evan Mercer and guitarist Johnny Rhoades trading licks as the track fades. Beautiful. “BROKE DOWN CHEVY #2” is a slow-rolling, low-down, funky blues that features legendary Detroit guitarist Jim McCarty (of The Detroit Wheels and CACTUS). At age 75, McCarty proves that he can still peel the paint off the walls. Smillie’s lyrics, as always, are laced with good humor. “LAST CHANCE” features Motor City Josh on slide guitar and a syncopated New Orleans groove. It’s a nod to the late Lowell George of Little Feat. The lyric tells the story of a desperate man trying hard to hold on to a love that has long since left the building. “JOSEPHINE” is a swampy, atmospheric piece, full of mystery. Smillie’s lyric sets up the narrative but leaves the storyline open to interpretation. Long-time backing vocalists Tina Howell and Ashley Stevenson bring their talents to the mix. “DRINKIN’ & DRUGGIN’” is a shit-kickin’ slab of rock & roll detailing Smillie’s long road to hard-won sobriety. Jason Bone and Brendon Linsley (both members of Smillie’s touring band) are featured on guitars. “NAE NAE (MONTH OF SUNDAYS)” is a Wilson Pickett-inspired rocker that opens with a strong backbeat from drummer Todd Glass and a funky bassline from bassist Chris Smith. The energy is infectious and undeniable! Finally, on the closer “ALL THE WAY IN MY CORNER” echoes of the late Ray Charles can be heard in Smillie’s vocal. When he sings “She’s the cream, and the sugar, and the coffee in my cup. She’s the ONLY reason I’m still waking up”, he’s acknowledging that her love is at the cornerstone of his life. It’s REAL!