A CD review of The Lower Level in Blues Blast Magazine by Steve Jones, president of the Crossroads Blues Society. This review appeared in the June 6 2019 Issue of Blues Blast.
L&M Rhythm Kings –The Lower Level
This is the debut CD of the L&M Rhythm Kings, a Massachusetts based band comprised of Larry Lusignan on guitar and vocals, Mark Longo on keys, and vocals, Michael “Squid” Rush on bass and backing vocals, and Glenn Rogers on drums. All of the songs are originals developed by the band.
Larry has fronted his own band for over 30 years and appeared on Ronnie Earl’s Father’s Day album. Earl returns the favor and appears here on two cuts. Roomful of Blues Chris Vachon produced the CD and appears on one cut on guitar. Joining in on percussion is John Loud on two tracks. Longo’s keys can also be heard with a variety of bands including The Boston Horns and Trick Bag. Rush on bass has a similar resume to Longo. Rogers tours nationally with Luther Guitar Jr. Johnson. These guys have been around and know the ropes of the blues, R&B, soul, jazz and rock business.
“Meadow Lounge” opens the set, a mellow and smooth jazzy sort of blues tune. The piano drives the tune as the boys play tightly. The guitar work is well done, but the piano here is just as much a standout despite the bigger guitar solo. “Without You” is a slower tune with a nice organ solo and even cooler guitar solo. The band chimes in together behind the vocal lead and it’s a nice little cut overall.
The title track is next, a mid tempo swing tune with a sweet groove, sort of Roomful of Blues Lite. The band responds to the vocal call on the choruses and things move along well. The piano gets the first solo then the guitar later chimes in, both good ones. “Tara Says So” is a midtempo swing instrumental with congas added. There’s even a bass solo amongst the solos, a cool little cut. Ronnie Earl plays lead guitar on “Big Wheeled Bonneville,” a slow and somber jazz and blues cut with a nice organ solo followed by a tasty guitar solo. “Smoke” also features the added percussion; it has a sort of Caribbean feel to it. The vocals feel a little strained but it flows OK.
Earl returns for “Cookin’ In Groveland,” a more up tempo jazzy instrumental with everyone getting a solo. Vachon gets the 2nd lead in “Inside Out.” A slow and thoughtful blues, it has the piano solo and then the guitar solos to appreciate back to back. “The Same 50” is a cut about getting stiffed with the same $50 since 1960. Here we get the piano solo, bass solo and guitar solo lined up in another mid-tempo swing tune.
The percussion is back for “Hot Coals” which is another instrumental. The organ is featured up front and then the guitar gets the nod for an extended solo which essentially takes us out. The set wraps up with “Closing Time” which has the feel of a lounge or bar tune where the piano player tells us it’s time to go home. About halfway through the guitar takes the lead and then the piano returns to close out the slow tempo instrumental.
My only complaints are that the vocals seem a little dispassionate at times, which may come from the fact everything is a slow to mid tempo cut. I kept waiting for the band to break out in a hi tempo-ed, swinging cut that rocked out a bit and it never happened. The guys are good; they play tightly and together quite well but it could have used a little more variety in changing up the beat. They have that New England feel with a little jazz and swing and blues blended together and they all play their instruments excellently Getting the juices and blood flowing a couple of times would have helped a lot with the album. These guys can deliver the goods- I’d like to hear more from them!
Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.