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Reese Wynans and Friends – Sweet Release (J&R Adventures)

27 October 2019

They may not have changed their name at the time, but when Reese Wynans joined Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing band in 1985 the rhythm section went from Double Trouble to triple threat. The former Duane Allman sideman has made a career in excess of 50 years by using his keyboards to elevate great material in the fields of rock, soul, and country music, and in 2019 Wynans has called in some long-overdue favors and collaborated with talented contemporaries to record his first solo album. Sweet Release is produced by current boss, bandmate and fan Joe Bonamassa. The record sounds like a labor of love and joy for Wynans, who expresses exactly those sentiments in his liner notes. Former bandmates Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton reignite Double Trouble for romps through SRV’s “Say What!” and “Crossfire,” with the latter featuring a spine-tingling and soulful lead vocal by Sam Moore of Stax greats Sam & Dave. Notably, “Crossfire” was co-written by Wynans, Double Trouble, and Bill and Ruth Carter. Wynans reimagines the Vaughan Brothers’ barn-burner “Hard to Be” as a rocker in the style of Delaney & Bonnie with no less than Bonnie Bramlett herself leading the fray. Bonamassa gets his licks in during several songs, including Tampa Red’s “So Much Trouble” and the album’s title cut. Wynans performed Boz Scaggs’ “Sweet Release” during his brief tenure in San Francisco beginning in 1969. This time around, a clutch of friends including Paulie Cerra, Keb’ Mo’, Mike Farris, Vince Gill, Jimmy Hall, Bramlett, and Warren Haynes trade vocals on the song. Doyle Bramhall II is featured on The Electric Flag vocalist Nick Gravenites’ “You’re Killing My Love” (released in 1969 by Otis Rush), joined by Cerra’s saxophone. The Meters’s “Soul Island” is another highlight among many. Bonamassa makes sure that star guitarists get their time in the spotlight, including Kenny Wayne Shepherd on “Shape I’m In,” Josh Smith on “That Driving Beat,” and Haynes on “Take the Time.” But Wynans always gets pride of place with the first solo, sitting on top of the mix and performing a master class in organ and piano with “the best and fattest breaks.”