Eric Lindell – Low on Cash, Rich in Love (2008)

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NICK DERISO: The blue-eyed soul template has been copied so many times that it can feel like a faded and calculating conceit, something singers do simply to attact a demo.

Unless you’re Eric Lindell, a native of San Mateo, Calif., who not only aspires to a Van Morrison/Delbert McClinton-level of outsider R&B glory, but blends in enough funk and swamp pop from his one-time adopted home of New Orleans to make it sound new. (“Low on Cash, Rich in Love” was recorded and mixed at the city’s Piety Street studios.)

No surprise, then, that Lindell’s horn-driven groove can be mistaken, at first, for a party record. But there is a notable depth, and a rare authenticity, across “Low on Cash” — principally because of Lindell’s ferocious talents as a writer, singer, harp blower and guitar picker. That helps him to synthesize a rootsy and mature soundscape into this cohesive sophomore effort for Alligator, one which moves with thrilling ease across influences as diverse as Curtis Mayfield and Little Feat over to the Meters and Sam Cooke.

Lindell wrote all but one of the 12 inviting soul workouts here, then retooled Gil Scott-Heron’s “Lady Day and John Coltrane” into the same sensuous, loping vibe. “Lay Back Down,” the opening track, quickly establishes this seductive gait. (It’s embedded below.) Lindell builds from there with memorably danceable tunes like “Low On Cash,” which hits a bubbling, funky groove before sliding into this roof-raising celebration (complete with a honking sax lead by Blake Nolte) of every saloon’s twinkling-eyed trifler.

“Josephine” clearly echoes another more contemporary influence, The Black Crowes — right down to the creaking, Otis Redding-ish elements of the vocal. But Lindell is less mannered than Chris Robinson with his vocals, more in the moment. Shuffles like “Tried and True” and “What I Got” are similar throwback triumphs — like something you might have heard around a glowing trash can on a Saturday night in the age of cigarettes and doo-wop, but without the knowing wink that wrecks so many modern remakes.

His core band is rounded out by guitarist Chris Mule, bassist Aaron Wilkinson and drummer Chris Plyant. Lindell adds rollicking harmonica on tunes like the Junior Wells-inflected “I Got a Girl.”

You can tell they are loving this. “It’s my pleasure,” Lindell sings during the song of the same name, skittering over the kind of bright, razor-sharp guitar solo found on every great record in the Sun or Chess records repertoire.

“All Night Long,” a countrified closer spruced up with some Crescent City horn playing, doesn’t arrive then as an empty promise. “Low on Cash, Rich in Love,” consistently terrific, is that inspirational rarity: a retro record as real as it is dynamic and fresh.

We may have heard it all before — “I Got a Girl,” come to think of it, sounds something like Dale Hawkins — but we forgive. There’s too much heart and soul (blue-eyed, or not) in all of it.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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