Saturday, July 13, 2024

Steve Cropper & The Midnight Hour Visit Friendlytown

Not many people start new bands in their 80s, but legendary guitarist, producer, and songwriter Steve Cropper isn’t slowing down any time soon. The triple-threat musician, recently nominated for his first solo Grammy award for the debut album from his tight and tuneful rock n’ soul quintet, Steve Cropper & The Midnight Hour, has announced details of  his  highly anticipated new album, Friendlytown, that will be due out on 23rd August via Mascot Label Group/Provogue.

Always pushing ahead and never repeating himself, Cropper has brought in the talents of Billy F Gibbons from ZZ Top to play on the record. The album also features guest appearances from Queen guitarist extraordinaire Brian May and country-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist Tim Montana, who has balanced a successful solo career with high-profile collaborations with Gibbons and Kid Rock.
“If your booty is not shaking in the first two bars of this album, you’re already dead in a chair,” laughed Cropper. “I feel so good about this batch of songs. They’re packed with radio hooks, and we have Billy Gibbons, Brian May, and Tim Montana playing on the album – It’s like guitar heaven.”
In conjunction with the album announcement, Cropper has released the album’s first single, Too Much Stress’, featuring May, giving fans a taste of his new music. This groovy mid-tempo number features gospel-style backing vocals and a trifecta of the baddest rock guitar players. BMay sings the duet vocal together with Roger C. Reale and the backing vocals while May and Gibbons trade back-to-back solos. The Queen’s axeman’s trademark snarling tone and lyrical licks perfectly complement Gibbons’ searing blues-based style, with Cropper holding it all down with some signature slinky rhythm guitar work. “It was heaven playing with those two,” Cropper recalled.
Standout tracks on Friendlytown are said to include the muscular, blues rock title track, anchored by one of Cropper’s signature loping riffs, adorned with low-down Texas blues style guitar leads from Gibbons, and featuring Reale’s throaty growl. Another highlight is ‘You Can’t Refuse’, the ultra-catchy, Bo Diddley-styled romp featuring slithery blues licks from Tim Montana. “He attended a party I had some time back, and it turns out he was a big fan of my work. When he played on the album, he said ‘just make sure you spell my name right!’” Cropper recalled laughing.
Cropper produced Friendlytown with producer, bassist, multi-instrumentalist, and longtime friend Jon Tiven (Wilson Pickett, Don Covay, and Frank Black). Steve Cropper & The Midnight Hour is rounded out by lead vocalist Roger C. Reale, Nashville first-call drummer and percussionist Nioshi Jackson, and, of course, the Reverend Billy Gibbons. Producer, artist developer, and studio co-owner Eddie Gore (Aaron Goodvin, Keb Mo, Jonathan Singleton) engineered the album and contributed organ.

Cropper has won two Grammy awards from his seven nominations. He’s been ranked the number two greatest guitarist of all-time—behind Jimi Hendrix—by England’s Mojo Magazine, and number 36 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Cropper’s name is  synonymous with the world-famous soul label Stax Records, and he is featured in HBO’s new documentary, Stax: Soulsville U.S.A.

While at Stax, Cropper co-wrote hits, played guitar behind, and produced such legends as Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd, Wilson Pickett, Bill Withers, Sam & Dave, Albert King, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, and Johnnie Taylor. Post-Stax, Cropper produced and/or played on sessions for Jeff Beck, Jose Feliciano, Yvonne Elliman, John Prine, Tower Of Power, John Cougar, Paul Simon, Ringo Starr, Buddy Guy, Johnny Lang, Elton John, and Steppenwolf, among many, many others.
Reflecting back on his journey, the iconic musician said: “When I think about my legacy, I want it to be said that I was a nice guy,” The perfect sentiment from a man bringing us a record called Friendlytown.
Friendlytown features the tracks ‘Too Much Stress’, ‘Hurry Up Sundown’, ‘Let’s Get Started’, ‘Talkin’ Bout Politics’, ‘I’ll Take Tomorrow’, ‘Lay It On Down’, ‘You Can’t Refuse’, ‘Rain On My Parade’, ‘There’s Always A Catch’, ‘In God We Trust’, ‘Reality Check’ and ‘I’ll Leave You In Peace’ – You can order it by clicking here.

Available digitally, you can check out the video for ‘Too Much Stress’ here at RAMzine.

Paul H Birch
Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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