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July 2024
Vol. 23, No. 10

CD Reviews

ARCHIE THOMPSON: Permanently Gone

by Wayne RikerApril 2024

Permanently Gone is the latest drop from band leader Archie Thompson. Thompson, a triple threat as a vocalist, pianist, and saxophonist in jazz and R&B circles, takes a similar path as Ray Charles did back in the day, doing a 180 degree turn by churning out a country music album—in Thompson’s case, all original tunes. The ten tracks feature Thompson’s eclectic country music-themed arrangements, supported by a top tier of musos led by Brian “Nucci” Cantrell on drums, Jason Littlefield on bass, Joe Amato on guitar, Mitch Manker on brass, and vocalist Mercedes Moore.

The opening upbeat track, “Big City Lies,” comes roaring out of the gate with Thompson’s voice in full-throated country mode as if Ray Price or Eddy Arnold just hit the mic. “Every time I need an angel, she’d be the devil in disguise…falling for them big city lies,” bolstered by a full bank of gospel vocal harmonies on the chorus.

The two-steppin’ rocker, “The Bottle,” is next, highlighted by some slick country twang licks from Amato’s electric guitar. “The bottle ain’t working like it used to…having put the bottle down since you said we’re through.” The country gospel-flavored “Push the Stone Aside,” features a call and response from Thompson and a vocal chorus right out of Sunday church. “Midnight blues is calling out your name…open your eyes it’s a brand new game,” segueing into an ascending half-step key modulation to accommodate Thompson’s honking tenor sax flurries, à la Boots Randolph.

“Cutaway” is one of two instrumental tracks, a short break from Thompson’s songwriting, which is the heart and soul of the album with just the right lyrical vibe as if we were in the midst of a Saturday night at our local honky tonk bar. Thompson and Amato carry the tune with a musical conversation on the verse before a full brass section chimes in on the bridge.

Thompson nails it perfectly the classic country piano phrases of legendary piano man Floyd Cramer on the track “The Way That Love Can Go,” a well-crafted “cry in your beer” ballad, a vocal highlight on the album with echoes of Hank Williams. “Now your love has gone, and my tears begin to flow.”

The soulful country-rock goodie, “Porcelain Covered Heart,” is a radio-friendly candidate as a single off the album, fueled by Littlefield’s bass and Cantrell’s drums, with embellishments from Amatos’ periodic low-end Duane Eddy riffs. “Sometimes I think seeing you might do myself some good…you might change your mind, you got to if you understood,” followed by the Tex-Mex flavored track “Memphis Bound,” complemented by a horn section arrangement reminiscent of the early western swing days of Bob Wills’ use of horns, Mariachi style.

“Any Other Way” takes the listener back to the early merger of country and R&B roots of the 1950s, a track similar to the vocal styling breakthrough sounds from the Savoy, Imperial, and Mercury record labels. The feel-good R&B track “Road Trip” puts Thompson in a vocal duet with Moore in tandem with Thompson’s soulful brass section arrangement. “You and me baby, we’re going on a road trip.”

The album concludes with the instrumental track “Stranded,” a clever arrangement alternating between Thompson’s bluesy reverb-drenched sax lines and Amato’s low end “Spaghetti Western” responses set against a lilting 6/8 time groove. Manker’s mellifluous high-end brass notes in tandem with the others brings the album to a close with images of the conclusion to the “gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” putting a tidy bow on Thompson’s successful take on his eclectic country musical sojourn.

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