With each person having already distinguished himself as an individual performer, sideman, or member of such accomplished blues bands as The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, The Mannish Boys, and Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, it should come as no surprise that the new soul-blues-rock supergroup The Proven Ones can make some great music together. But what may surprise you is just how great the music on the band’s debut album Wild Again (Roseleaf Records) is, with the recording quickly becoming one of our favorites of 2018.
Featuring the sturdy, soulful vocals of Boston bluesman Brian Templeton, the guitar talents of Kid Ramos, the keyboards of Anthony Geraci (Sugar Ray & the Bluetones), bass from Willie J. Campbell, and drums from Jimi Bott (who also recorded and mixed the project), the band — whose members have appeared on hundreds of recordings — very much lives up to its name on this inaugural offering, proving to be easily on par with the likes of other successful recent collectives such as Royal Southern Brotherhood, The Rides, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
If it’s Templeton’s impressive vocals that first capture your ear, ranging from the steady, low-key delivery of the swaying “If You Be My Baby” (Peter Green) to the dynamic stylings of a breezy, Hootie & the Blowfish-like “Right Track Now” to the all-out soul-R&B assault of the slow-burning “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (Fats Domino), it doesn’t take much longer for Ramos and Geraci to help pull you in further with their playing, with many of the numbers also incorporating some nifty horns.
A bit more rocking of a project than some of the members might have the opportunity to be involved with through their usual bands or more traditional blues collaborations, Wild Again kicks off with all the energy of a Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band track in the Bott-contributed “Cheap Thrills”, followed by the booming vocals and gritty soul-blues of “City Dump” (Arlester Christian). A few songs later comes the lightly rocking, Geraci-penned “Why Baby Why”, one of several numbers on which Templeton sounds a lot like Bluetones vocalist and harmonica player Sugar Ray Norcia, as is also the case with the cover of Clarence Carter’s “Road of Love” that follows and that includes some particularly Duane Allman-sounding slide guitar work from Ramos.
The soulful title track is, as you might expect from its name, another rocking one, with the two closing numbers — both cover tunes — guaranteed to leave you as satisfied as the band’s tagline of “America’s Most Trusted Soul Treatment” — a play on an old STP oil motto (accompanied, of course, by the band’s TPO initials presented in a similar fashion to the STP logo) — promises: a masterful take on Fenton Robinson’s “Somebody Loan Me a Dime” that would probably be the song (followed closely by “Don’t Leave Me This Way”) we’d say you need to hear if we had to pick just one, and a “Don’t Let Me Down” (The Beatles) that the band literally makes their own by tacking on an instrumental “Proven Fugue in E Major” at song’s end.
With the covers all rivaling, and in some cases surpassing, the original versions of the songs, and the new material making a strong statement of its own, Wild Again is one that proves very much worth picking up!