Cordova Bay Publishing © 2006
Reviewed by Lisa Palmeno
David Gogo's Skeleton Key starts out with high-powered, driving-down-the-highway with-the-windows-down kind of blues on "Jesse James." The whine of the guitar and staunch vocals from Gogo and Melisa Devost ride over the top of the church organ and the constant tambourine. Driven by a powerful downbeat from Hicks', "Jesse James" is a strong opening for the CD.
Gogo's vocals are showcased as much as his guitar playing, and Hick's percussive abilities are a highlight of the recording. A myriad of instruments and numerous guest musicians give the album versatility and verve. Gogo's band members are: David Gogo: Lead Vocals & Guitars; Todd Sacerty: Bass Guitar; Billy Hicks: Drums & Percussion; Brendan Hedley: Piano & Organ; and Rick Hopkins: Organ.
Guest musicians are as follows: Garry Barnum on Harmonica & Groaning; Melisa Devost on Harmony Vocals; Pierre Komen on Sax and Vocals; Earle Gibson on Trombone and Vocals; Kyle Burrows on Rhodes; and Tine Jones on Trumpet and Percussion.
Skeleton Key consists of six originals and seven covers from blues legends such as: Albert Collins; Big Bopper; Ottis Spann; Butterfield/Bloomfield/Gravenites; Willy Dixon; Wonder/Garret/Wright/Hardway; and Curtis Mayfield.
The first four songs, "Jesse James," "I Can Still Hear You Crying," "Stay Away From My Home," and "Skeleton Key" are all originals. "I Can Still Hear You Crying" is a melancholy love ballad that slows the pace after the power of "Jesse James." "Stay Away From My Home" maintains a steady blues rhythm and lyrics of a love that has died with "I used to need you baby, but now I've got to put you down/You know the reason why/You're love is all over town." Title song "Skeleton Key" is a simple, slow, meaningful love song with minor chord progressions.
Gogo's singing guitar revives Albert Collins' classic instrumental "Backstroke," and Ottis Spann's "Walkin'" is accurately and effectively acted out by the percussionist. "Reap What You Sow" brings the listener back to slow, thoughtful blues about life choices. Gogo's "Things Are About to Change" is an energetic tale of a man who is fed up with his woman. Gogo really shines on the guitar on this standard blues original.
The tick tock of the wood block serves as an accompanying metronome on Willie Dixon's "It Don't Make Sense (That You Can't Make Peace)." Gogo lowers the tempo on Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" and changes the vocal phrasings enough to recreate the song as a mellow love song. The brightness of the organ keeps it from falling flat, and the rock guitar parts give the song a fresh face.
Penned by M.L. Gore, Depeche Mode's tune "Personal Jesus" became Marilyn Manson's radio hit. It's a strange choice for a blues album, but Gogo does it justice by slowing it down a bit. The guitar, drums and organ display the blues influences Gore obviously had when writing this dark commentary on modern religion.
Gogo's "Belgian Moon" starts out a lot like "Killing Floor" but quickly takes on a character of its own. The album finishes with Curtis Mayfield's "Fool for You." Lightly interjected horns, innovative breaks, sweet piano melodies, and metal riffs make this the most original and unique track on the album.
With horns, harp, keys (including an electric piano called a Rhodes), back-up vocals, and percussion instruments stirred in for added taste, Skeleton Key possesses the ultimate blues repertoire. Gogo is able to offer a large, full sound while showing off his extensive knowledge of blues styles.
© 2006. All Rights Reserved.