CD REVIEW: Django Mack - Sweet Life
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Artist: Django Mack
Genre: R&B, Psychedelic Rock, Soul Rock, Americana
Sounds Like: Dr. John, Jimmy Buffett, The Band, Leon Russell, Grateful Dead, Steely Dan, Joe Cocker, Randy Newman
Weakness: Vocal Delivery, Snare drum mix, short sided CD
Django Mack is no stranger to the music business. He's been writing stories, writing songs, playing guitar and performing in front of audiences for quit4 some time. This latest 9 Track CD is entitled "Sweet Life" and was released in 2014. Citing from his bio: One of the big differences between this record and the last one is that we took these tunes out to some audiences while we were writing and creating them, so you all can take a little credit if you like. Joe Cunningham, Tom Donald and Terry Reed brought some great ideas to the table, and we feasted like kings on those as well as some sturdy, dependable fare, like Monk’s “Round Midnight”.
The CD kicks things off with “What You Gonne Do” an upbeat intro piece that serves-up driving rhythms, up-beat vocal melodies accompanied by inviting Piano driven melody, R&B style guitar licks and impressive accents and honey coasted vocal d harmonies. Track 2 “The Devils Watering Hole” shifts gears a bit with its impressive smooth as silk groove, against well placed saloon style horn section, vocal harmonies against a grand slam chorus. Track 3 “Light It Up” delivers smooth moving ditty with well-placed vocal melody, dynamic Saxophone and musical flow and thought provoking lyrical content that flows and ebbs its way through to musical fruition. As the CD slowly unfolds you will notice a lot of musical variety from Galloway reminiscent of classic Jimmy Buffett, Dr. John, The Band, Nick Cave, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, Randy Newman and Steely Dan. First the music itself has a lot of vocal originality and possesses a psychedelic 70’s rock persona. The CD offers a rich melodic vocal foundation and lush layers of instrumentation. I would classify this music as classic 70’s Psychedelic Rock, R&B, Soul Rock and even Jam Band with a strong emphasis on vocal harmonies and good songwriting and superb musicianship. All in all the CD has some truly impressive moments on it showcasing amazing playing, dynamic arrangements, and wire arrangement of instrumentation. Besides the standard 4 piece delivery you will also notice brief splashes of Saxophone, Trumpet, Organ, Saloon style Piano, well placed vocal harmonies, and amazing R&B guitar and solo guitar licks layered within the music. As far as vocal abilities, Mack feels comfortable within his own skin possessing a lot groove-ability and more than enough soul to go around. His voice works well across the board possessing a vocal swagger reminiscent of classic Dr. John, with just a splash of Joe Cocker and Randy Newman. His voice fits this style of music perfectly. Mack clearly demonstrates a raspy, rough around the edges vocal ability. All production aspects check out as the CD has solid low end groove and crystal clear high end clarity. Kudos goes out to the amazing musicianship featured by all players involved: The band just grooves together. From the striking “Shiny Boots” and “Cool Water” to grooving “ Should Have Known Better” Three Dollar Bill” and “Late Night Western” to melodic “Slow But Sure” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 9 “Round Midnight” the perfect faille statement for a CD of this caliber.
I don’t like how Track 1 ends. The drums sit a bit high within the mix on some songs. On some tracks the snare drum sounds more like a shotgun than a snare drum. It’s fair to say Mack doesn’t possess a world class vocal ability. I like the vocal passion that emanates from Mack but he avoids taking any serious risks that would indicate a serious vocal ability – especially in the higher registries. His vocal phrasing and paraphrasing is in dire need of a high sweet melody. His vocal delivery is also a bit choppy note for note, song for song. It lacks fullness, melodic depth and variety – but what can I Say it works and fits this style of music pretty good. My hats off to mack for using his strengths and making this whole thing work. Despite this - tt’s almost like he’s speaking or whispering the notes to you. Over time this repetitive scratchy baritone delivery will take a major toll on the listener. I would recommend Mack pony up some cash and get a few high end vocal lessons from a pro to see where that takes him. CD is a bit short with 9 tracks, perhaps 2-3 more songs are needed to make this a fully loaded CD release.
In closing Django Mack's latest effort Sweet Life is just a blast to listen to and is a strong and entertaining musical production from start to finish. The music is highly original, extremely melodic with amazing writing and playing from all involved. As the CD progressed I became more and more impressed with it. Because of the influences I would say the flower children who like Leon Russell and Grateful Dead out there will love this one. The musicianship is first rate, the songs are quite dynamic and entertaining. Each song possesses a unique personality, flair, and signature groove. Lastly - the writing and singing abilities of Django Mack are what I would call infectious, entertaining and vividly bold.