As a longtime member of the backup band for legendary singer Etta James, guitarist Bobby Murray learned how to work hand-in-hand with a vocalist.
He demonstrates that ability on his fine new CD, “I’m Sticking With You.”
“Even before I was working with Etta (who died in 2012), I worked with a lot of other singers,” said Murray, who celebrates his recording with a CD release party on Friday at the Loving Touch in Ferndale. “I love the guitar, and I’ve played my share of Albert Collins and Freddie King instrumentals, but my favorite instrument is still the human voice. There’s something about it.”
“I’m Sticking With You” features vocalists Red Redding, who is a member of the Bobby Murray Band; as well as guest vocalists Barbara Payton, Paul Randolph and Tom Hogarth.
“I try to think in terms of serving as a foil or doing a call-and-response with a fine singer,” Murray said.
Redding has performed with Murray’s band for about four years, since Murray heard him sing at a club in Detroit.
“His voice spoke to me,” Murray said. “I love the quality and timbre of his voice and his super soulful phrasing. I heard some Little Milton and Johnnie Taylor influences in his voice. He can sing down in the alley or a sweet, soulful ballad.”
Murray first heard Hogarth sing at a festival in Windsor. Hogarth has previously worked with keyboardist Mark Thibodeau and drummer Renell Gonsalves, who are both members of the Bobby Murray Band, along with bassist Dave Uricek.
“I heard his voice and said to myself ‘I’ve gotta work with this guy,’” Murray said. “He has a wonderful voice.”
Murray is thankful for the vocal contributions of Randolph, who performs with Jazzanova and is known world-wide as a multi-talented musician and writer. Randolph will be releasing his third solo album in 2014.
“Paul Randolph is an incredible singer,” Murray said. “I’ve always wanted to work with ever since I heard him play with Mudpuppy.”
Another contributor to Murray’s new CD is Payton, who fronts the band Barbara Payton and the Instigators, of which Murray is a member.
“She’s got so many tones, she has the ability to tap into the deepest part of the human experience,” Murray said. “What she does on ‘Rock My Soul,’ the discipline she uses on one verse where she bumps up an octave at the end, just kills me.
“I have good singers in the band too. Dave Uricek has a wonderful voice and Mark Thibodeau too. All the singers make my words come to life.”
Unlike his previous three albums, which featured a mix of original and cover tunes, “I’m Sticking With You” contains 11 songs all written by Murray.
“It’s certainly a labor of love, they are songs I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time,” he said. “It’s like John Lee Hooker sang in ‘Boogie Chillun’’ … ‘it’s in him and it’s got to come out.’ Like a lot of people, writing is a cathartic release for me.
“I know I’m not Bob Dylan or Percy Mayfield, but I love to do it. It is like a birthing process. First, you start out with one, but they are all my kids and I love ‘em all.”
Having someone else sings the songs you’ve written can be a challenge, but Murray -- who praises Brian “Roscoe” White for his contributions on the CD as engineer, mixer, arranger and musician – trusted the creativity of his vocalists.
“I wanted them to be able to express themselves and make the words come to life. I gave them carte blanche and told them ‘do it your way.’ I completely trusted them.
“It’s the best feeling in the world when you put words on a piece of paper, and they looked OK at 3 a.m., but when you see them come to life as a singer breathes life into them is pretty amazing. I’m always knocked out, it just kills me.
“It’s the same for the instrumentals too. I love the process of being able to work with people.”
The standout vocals, strong songwriting, and Murray’s tasty guitar work combine to produce a stellar recording. Murray may have been the one leading the way, but he knows that it was a collaborative effort.
“It’s like a school of fish moving as one, although everybody is completely separate.”
FYI – The Bobby Murray Band celebrates the release of “I’m Sticking With You” with a CD release and live performance at 9 p.m. Friday at The Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Ave. in Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Guest performers are expected to include Paul Randolph, Barbara Payton, master of ceremonies and guitarist Mark “Pazman” Pasman, and vocalist Lenny Watkins. Doors open at 8 p.m. Admission is free.
To send info to JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailytribune.com