Big Al & The Heavyweights have been around since 1993, founded by drummer Big Al Lauro and guitarist Warren Haynes as the Unknown Blues Band. The band has had numerous changes since their formation, only Big Al remains from the original line-up, but their sound remains as crowd pleasing as ever, combining the blues with rock, country, zydeco, New Orleans-flavored R&B, and jazz. The current Heavyweights are Lauro (drums), Lance Younger (guitar/vocals), Wayne Lohr (keys/vocals), Dean Galatas (bass), and Destin Thibodeaux (harmonica/bass).
The band’s latest release is World Full Of Trouble (EllerSoul Records), and it’s loaded to the brim with plenty of Big Al and the gang’s fun-loving, free-wheeling blues, twelve original songs written by the members that explore the sound they have cultivated so carefully over their 25-plus years of existence. Guest musicians include former Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin, New Orleans guitarist John Lisi, and former Heavyweight/harmonica ace Jason Ricci, who all contribute to multiple tracks.
Leading off with the hopeful title track, a hot blues rocker longing for the day that “love will conquer hate,” the band employs a twin guitar attack from Margolin and Younger, who also takes the lead vocal. Lohr is on vocals for “Fool For You,” which has a cool swamp pop feel with guests Lisi on guitar and Lance Ellis on sax, and the blues shuffle “Love So Fine,” backed again by Lisi with Margolin. Meanwhile, Younger’s robust vocals and guitar are backed by gospel-like vocals from Donna Slater and Cathy Pace on the soul ballad “Testify.”
Ricci plays harmonica on the zydeco-flavored “Bayou Life,” which also features accordion from Greg “Shatzy” Shatz, and the funky “Big Old Rusty Car” adds horns from Lance Ellis, whose contributions gives “Spanish Moss” a jazzy R&B vibe. The humorous “Mother Trucker” ventures into country swing territory complements of some fine pedal steel from Dwight Breinad, and the Windy City West Side blues “Millionaire Baby” includes horns, harp from Ricci, and Lisi’s sublime guitar work. On “Crazy About You Baby,” Ricci and Thibodeaux battle it out on harp, and the disc closes with “Something Got To Change,” a horn-fueled blues ballad.
Heading into their second quarter-century of making this funky concoction of musical genres that can best be described as “Louisiana Roots,” Big Al & The Heavyweights show no signs of slowing down, based on this excellent collection.