“Poets have written about romantic love for thousands of years, yet today’s songwriters still find a way to write music that makes you see love with new eyes. Love is fun – and funny. It’s surprising and sexy, tough and tender. This album looks at what I’d call the cycle of love – that dizzying fairground ride that takes us up and down and all around, from new love and passion to heartbreak and rebound. I’ve ridden that big carnival wheel of love and I can identify with every song on this album. Let’s just be real for a moment: I bet you can relate to them, too.”~ Laura Tate
On Laura Tate’s fourth album, Let’s Just Be Real, her maturation process has manifested itself to make a potent musical statement that is undeniably one of the top releases of 2017. Tate proves that she is an interpreter of songs with the ability to bare her heart while warming your soul in the process. Quite a few of the outstanding musicians playing on Let’s Just Be Real are holdovers from Tate’s last album I Must Be Dreaming. The addition of heavily in demand veteran drummer Tony Braunagel to the mix can only be termed an asset. Terry Wilson returns to once again arrange, produce, and engineer the set as well as adding some backing vocals and bass guitar throughout. Her last release was a salute to the songwriting talent of Mel Harker. Harker gets compositional credit for two of the dozen tracks on this new album, as Tate expands her scope.
The opening song is from the catalog of renowned
late Texas-based guitarist and vocalist Stephen Bruton. It is entitled “Nobody
Gets Hurt,” and is a medium tempo blues shuffle led by the Hammond B-3 organ of
Jeff Paris in tandem with the deep rocking-chair groove dug by the rhythm
section of bassist Wilson and drummer Braunagel. Billy Watts delivers a subdued
electric guitar lead that is sweet as molasses. Laura Tate sings the tune with
a self-assured tone that substantiates the fact that she is the one in complete
control of the relationship. The song’s confident lyrics read in part: “stay
where you are baby, don’t say another word, just do what I say, and nobody gets
hurt.” Tate’s enunciation really stands out and grants the lyrics extra
clarity, especially when she sings lines like “I need you to listen to me
The iconic horn section of former Tower Of Power
trumpeter Lee Thornburg and saxophonist Paulie Cerra (Lucky Peterson, Little
Milton, Joe Bonamassa, etc.) really scintillates on the T.Wilson/J.Paris
composition “If That Ain’t Love.” Tate’s vocal is oh-so-fine, reminiscent of
the early 60’s Phil Spector girl groups that ruled the charts in those days.
The sax lead barks and the piano of Paris bites,
while Tate alluringly sings “you ain’t hittin’ on nothing unless you got
something for me,” on the R&B “Hitting On Nothing.” The song is a bit more
up-beat, and everyone involved sounds very fine.
The jazzy tango of “Can’t Say No” finds Laura doing
her best enticing sultry vocalese. A sample is the way she states with a purr:
“you only call me cause I can’t say no.” Horn punctuations join in with jazzy
piano, guitar, and Braunagel’s kettle-drum sounding snare to enhance this
exhibition of Tate’s charismatic vocal expertise.
Laura reimagines the Thin Lizzy/Phil Lynott song
“Boys Are Back In Town” and does a discerning job fitting the mood of the song
with the lyrics to create an entirely new environment. Starting very slow and
then kickin’ it up a notch this take contains tender guitar as well as a softly
dynamic Tate vocal.
The first Mel Harker composition of the album,
“Still Got The Blues,” transpires as a blues ensemble piece with a rich luster.
Tate occupies the tune with a bluesy lounge singer vocal that is tender as a
medium-rare porterhouse steak. The accompany guitar is also very tastefully
presented along with corresponding piano and brass.
A classy R&B feel comes with the delight “I’ll
Find Someone Who Will.” Tate is sass personified with the lead vocal, and the
background vocal is well-placed as well. The bass and drums lay the foundation
for a steady rolling rhythm and the horn work adds to the atmosphere. The
cymbal percussion help support a hand-clapping impression to the song.
The title track, “Let’s Just Be Real,” is the second
Mel Harker composition on the release, and it is a treasure that sparkles like
a perfect diamond. The romantic vocal of Laura Tate is as relaxingly clear as a
nightingale singing tranquil and peacefully in the orchard. It is the title
track for a good reason, and I believe it is my favorite song on Let’s Just Be Real.
Some honky-tonk piano suitable for an old TV western
bar alongside slide guitar accompany Tate’s crispy vocal on “I Know You Lie.” A
sample lyric that illustrates the song’s message is “Everybody’s somebody’s
fool, but honey I’m just not yours.”
Tate somewhat reminds me of a female Muddy Waters on
“I Need a Man.” She pulls no punches in letting you know just what is on her
mind. As on all of this record, she impressively displays an ability to impart
pop sensibilities into whatever genre she is delving in.
“Dallas-born and raised, this charismatic singer and actress brings a vibe to everything. Her years in Los Angeles, Nashville, and New York show through in this fun fusion of blues, rock, and jazz. When you’re ready for an album that gets real and rings true, enjoy discovering Laura Tate on “Let’s Just Be Real.” ~ Cindy Graff Cohen, Music Writer
That quote pretty much sums it up perfectly. This is a fun recording that has the capacity to greatly please a wide variety of audiences.
Randall Parrish is a Senior Editor at Vivascene, with extensive publishing credits at various jazz and blues sites. He is also an avid guitar player whose musical knowledge of jazz, blues and roots music is widely respected. He can be reached by email here: RandallParrish@vivascene.com