The common denominator for these two new releases—one a few-frills blues-band album and the other a tastefully decorated gospel album—is guitarist Harvey Dalton Arnold. The selling point on Arnold's résumé is his five years spent as the bassist for the Southern-rocking Outlaws in the '70s, but his truest musical love is the blues. As presented on this debut, Arnold's take is delivered directly in the standard two-guitar, bass and drums format, well sung by Arnold and well played by the over-50s players who make up the band. The material is well chosen, too, as songs associated with Robert Johnson (by way of Eric Clapton and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers), B.B. King and Taj Mahal surround Arnold's original centerpiece, "Baby Just Don't Do It."
So it's rocking, electric-guitar blues by the book. Thing is, that book is a survivor's tale: Arnold is back in good health after a grueling fight with head and neck cancer. I'm aware of the circumstances and the battle won when I listen to this one. While it's clearly the blues, I hear joy. And that's a compelling blend.
Arnold is the lead guitarist for the band that backs Jennifer Evans on much of Just Your Name, a group of players clearly comfortable allowing the record to be a star turn for Evans' big, bold voice. Whether it's the stripped-down setting of the gripping "Nothing But the Blood/ Blood Done Sign My Name," the bouncy gospel-rock of "Elijah Rock" or the choir-stocked swirl of the original title track, Evans' voice adapts to her various surroundings quite well. But Evans is at her best when, accompanied only by piano, she claims the great Clara Ward's "How I Got Over." More sounds of joy.