“Live And Kickin’ It”
Infiniti Group Records
Publicity: Jill Kettles
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro

On the one sheet accompanying the disc, Leroy states: “I’m proud of this live project, yes, it’s live, it comes with all the hiccups that happened those two nights! I’d like to think this CD represents the way we should live our lives…jump right in there, make your mistakes, give it everything you have and never give up!  There are no overdubs at all on this album…what you hear is what we played…I can live with that!”.  To that I say “Leroy, although I agree with your lifestyle philosophy and how to attack a song, I gotta tell you, I heard no hiccups or mistakes”.

Apparently, Leroy Ellington and his Sacred Hearts don’t like resting on their laurels…..and that’s a good thing for us.  Just about a year ago I had the pleasure of reviewing the bands second release – “Sanctified” – and here I sit about to go to work on “Live And Kickin’ It”.  Being a live recording, it contains: two original tracks from an earlier solo release by Leroy, titled “Blue Eyed Blues”; three original tracks from the bands previous release; with three new originals and three covers. 

The very talented musicians on the project are: Leroy Ellington on lead vocals and saxophone; his sacred hearts: Max Gise and Marcos Sastre on guitar; Mike Grosser on bass; Charlie Fletcher on keyboards; Josh Parker on drums; The Soul Flower Singers, who are: Sonya Jackson and Karen Bolden on background vocals; and The Blowin’ Smoke Horns who are: Dwayne Irvin on saxophone and John Zappa on trumpet.

The words “and lead us not, into temptation” will ring a bell for those of you who have ever said The Lord’s Prayer – or as us Catholic School kids called it – “The Our Father”.   Being someone who was always trying to “stay out of trouble because he wanted to get in (to Heaven)”, Leroy knows a thing or two about temptation.  As a result, he sometimes found himself being the guy that “Heaven don’t want and Hell can’t handle”.  On “Heaven Don’t Want Me” – one of his new originals – Leroy addresses life on that roller coaster ride of good and evil.  This is the first of two tracks on which he blows lead sax and his sound on that is as soulful and emotional as his heartfelt vocals.  Additionally, as you will hear me say many times coming up, the rhythm and guitar work is as powerful as it gets.           

When is something that you absolutely don’t need and would never pay $150 for, a good deal?   Well, if you think like Leroy (and me as well) – never!  On the other hand, Mrs. Ellington disagrees.  Ya see, “Three Easy Payments” now makes it an offer she can’t refuse.  Yep, this true story is not only what gave Leroy a bad case of the QVC/HSN blues but it led to this original song, as well.  Look at that Mrs. Ellington – the silver lining in the cloud!  This dance floor filler is powered by a very hot rhythm led by Charlie’s smokin’ organ leads the killer guitar licks of Marcos.  On top of the dancing, the catchy chorus line will have you singing, as well.

Should you be wondering if the above situation may have landed Leroy in the “Doghouse”, the answer is a big yes.  Featuring seven full minutes of an all out, full throttle jam session, the live version of this original song is considerably longer than the studio version.  First and foremost, Josh – easily at disc’s best on drums – is literally beatin’ the  s – – t out of the kit; the dueling guitars – with monster solos by Max – are mind blowing;  Dwayne and John are validating why they’re called The Blowin’ Smoke Horns; and Leroy, on top of belting the hell out of the vocals is blowin’ some smoke of his own on the saxophone.  I can just imagine the rush this one gave the audience, ’cause I’m in total awe listening from home.  Great job guys! 

The first of the disc’s covers, “Why Me”, is a song by one of Leroy’s idols – Delbert McClinton.  And just as Delbert did, The Sacred Hearts laid it out in grand form.  Once again, this time led by some chest thumping’ bass lines by way of Mike, the rhythm is off the charts; the horn section, be it synchronous or on trumpet and saxophone solos by John or Dwayne, are doing what they do – blowin’ smoke; and Leroy is doing what I’ve now come to realize comes quite easily to him – singing the hell out of the song.    

When it comes to his band mates, one of the many things that prides Leroy is the raw power that they individually and collectively exude during their performances, and that can clearly be backed up by pretty much every song on the disc.  That said, the guys are also capable of exuding an intense level of tenderness, emotion and sensitivity as they clearly do on “Gravity” (John Mayer).  Then there’s that tirade that Marcos takes off on during the last nearly two minutes of the song that is a whole other story.  Plain and simple it’s some of the baddest guitar work I’ve heard in a very long time.  

There’s probably not a day that goes by where you either use, or hear someone else use, an idiom.  Some of the more common ones are: ‘fit as a fiddle’; ‘feeling under the weather’; and “Baptized In A Bedpan”……okay, maybe not so much that last one.  However, the song is a true story based on Leroy’s birth and those early days – make that months – in an incubator.  Ya see, Leroy was indeed not fit as a fiddle in the beginning and and he learned what it meant to be feeling under the weather long before anyone should have to.  As a matter of fact, not being sure if he’d ever make it out of the hospital, to insure his receiving the Sacrament of Baptism, they brought in a chaplain who truly performed the procedure in a bedpan.  But that was a long, long time ago and now Leroy is a big bad blues man who is live and kickin’ it and having a good time telling that story.

Other tracks on “Live And Kickin’ It” include; “My Father’s Son”; “Until We Meet Again”; “Something Funky Going On”; “I Wanna Tickle Your Fancy”; and “The Forecast Calls For Pain” (Robert Cray).   

To find out more about Leroy Ellington’s Sacred Hearts just go to their website – www.leroysacredhearts.com, and If you haven’t yet received your copy of “Live And Kickin’ It” for airplay, please contact Jill Kettles at  [email protected]. Also, make sure you check out the Galaxie Agency, as well, by going to  www.thegalaxieagency.com.  Of course,whomever you contact, please make sure you tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient