Addicted to the Blues

  • 2010
  • Addicted to the Blues
  • Phil Gates
  • DCT Productions


Review for BluesWax

Phil Gates

"Addicted to the Blues"

DCT Productions 2010

Reviewed by Steve Daniels

Phil Gates is one of the many talented musicians floating beneath the upper echelon of commercially successful blues artists, and is not even adequately recognized in his region of Southern California. With this, his fifth album, Gates demonstrates to the unaware his multiple talents as guitarist, composer, arranger, recording engineer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. Oh, and did I mention that he sings, also?

All 12 of the disc's tunes were penned by Gates, and they run the gamut from jazzy riffs to train song blues to New Orleans gospel funk. Gates plays the guitar on all cuts, plays bass on all but one, plays keyboard (poorly audible) on all but three, and programmed the drums. The latter endeavor is a weak feature of the album: man, these songs need occasional cymbal, kick drum, or other percussive variety; instead, the monotonous beat tamps down potential strong emotion. Perhaps Gates should have gone into the studio with a band instead of doing most of the work himself; it's no coincidence that "You Should've Listened," one of the highlights of the disc, features another musician (Larry Houston on organ).

Gates's favored groove is uptempo, and his strengths show best with propulsive struts and shuffles. His guitar leads are impressively lyrical, whether displaying rapid runs of single notes or tasteful chords. His one foray on slide guitar, "Used Me Up", is also solid. However, his playing is short on dynamics and tempo variation, and he doesn't attempt any gut-wrenching slow blues leads.

His singing is another weak feature. On the album opener, "Get Around to Me", his vocal reminds me of a cross between the sounds of Al Jarreau and Bill Withers but without their smoothness. Several other vocals unaccountably remind me of Mose Allison's style, at a more rapid pace. Gates has a limited vocal range and a dearth of emotional power and passion.

Gates does hit some laudable high points. "I'm Addicted", the title cut, avoids cliches with some creative lyrics and a really fine guitar bridge segment, and "Road Shufflin", the only instrumental, is an artful and infectious tour de force of fretwork.

"The Wisdom", the Nawlins strut abetted by Elizabeth Hangan and Gedina Jean on background vocals, ends the album with a decisive uplift.

[This review originally appeared on the BluesWax website.]