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Phil Gammage – Used Man For Sale

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Back from his Euro tour, Americana-blues man, Phil Gammage has wasted no time in putting out a new album. His eighth now, ‘Used Man For Sale‘, has just dropped, and it, by title and sound, is exactly what one might expect. The weather and whither to Gammage’s voice, for some reason comparatively dry to the great instrumentation in the mix, does play well on the ‘Used Man For Sale‘ feel for a blues album. Wishing only that this bluesy piece of work may have strayed a little further, one way or the other, from a standard tempo, and unaffected vocals, the album does deliver those classic honky tonk, Americana blues.

Musically the album is full of wonderful sound: honky tonk organ, bluesy guitar, harrowing harmonica, bountiful bass, bashful brushes, colourful keys, sweet slide, vivacious backing vocals, and a hint of that good ‘ol country acoustic strum. Even each guitar effect took hold of one era of blues or another. Vocal harmonies, in solo and choral fashion are wonderful, not to mention harmonizing piano and guitar together in tracks like ‘Maybe Tomorrow‘.

philgammage_credit_tim_macyNow yes, the blues are of course given that name for a specific reason, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they need be slow-going. True, there are some tracks on the album that pick it up a bit, but not by much, and this is absolutely a subjective point because I’m more than certain that there are some people feeling blue out there who want to take a slow ride with their emotions. I suppose when I feel blue, I like to alternate between some more aggressive blues and some very heart wrenching blues. ‘Used Man For Sale‘ has got some spatterings of aggression and heart wrench, but I wouldn’t say there’s one full track that drives me hard one way or the other.

I’m sure Phil Gammage will never be able to escape this fact, and it’s clear that whether or not he enjoys it, he certainly uses it to his advantage, but the similarity of his voice, in some instances, to Elvis Presley, is uncanny. There is a very big quality to his voice as if he has channeled Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jim Morrison to create a sound that fills every crevice, which I find wonderful and, at times, overwhelming. I would love to hear the Johnny Cash vulnerability in Gammage’s voice, and I would love to hear more of the Jim Morrison ripping blues-rock vocals he pulls off in tracks like ‘I Beg of You‘. I think there’s much more to Gammage’s voice that he’s not sharing with us. The relatively uniform tempo throughout the album, along with the big wall of emotionally safe vocals turns those energetic songs on the album into almost ballads, and the ballads therefore, don’t stand out as wonderfully as they should…and indeed they should.

philgammage_credit_marc_travantiUsed Man For Sale‘, title track of the album, slipped by me a bit on my first listen through the album, and now when I listen to it, isolated, I get the power of the piece, and it’s a great song! There are nuances that one can pick up on, that may be more difficult to notice when couched in the rest of the album.

The classic blues track ‘Railroad Bill‘ really captures that famous vocal triad I mentioned above. The lyrical journey very Cash, the grit very Morrison, and the chorus, very Presley.

Ultimately, Phil Gammage is very accomplished, and deservedly so: his music is catchy and technically solid. I just can’t help but feel he’s holding back on sharing with us some real heartbreak and grit. I look forward to listening to what he comes out with next, but in the meantime, do check out ‘Used Man For Sale‘ right over HERE; it is worth the full listen. And keep up to date with Phil Gammage all the way over HERE.