Al Gamble, frontman for the Gamble Brothers Band, blanches when he reads some of the press about his group. "Someone compared our music to Hall & Oates, which never occurred to us," he good-naturedly grumbles.
"I'd say we aspire to be like the Band," Gamble says, naming the group that supported Bob Dylan (and, earlier, as "The Hawks," backed Arkansas rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins), cut groundbreaking rock albums such as 1968's Music From Big Pink, and bowed out via a star-studded final concert captured in the film The Last Waltz.
When the Gamble Brothers Band takes the stage at the New Daisy Theatre this Friday night, they will increase their ranks with nearly a dozen special guests, a la the Band's final Winterland appearance. But the Gambles' SuperJam (with organist Charlie Wood, guitarist Joe Restivo, singer/harmonica player Billy Gibson, and more) will mark a new chapter, not an end, for this popular Memphis group.
"Amy LaVere's opening up for us, and we've got all these great musicians playing. It should be a blast," Gamble says.
The SuperJam, which heralds the arrival of the Gamble Brothers Band's third album, Continuator, has been a long time coming.
The group recorded the album in Ardent's Studio A last April, with Jeff Powell producing, then originally slated it for a fall 2005 release. But after band pow-wows and meetings with their label, Archer Records, the Gamble Brothers Band decided to push the release date back, hire a hard-hitting publicist (Cary Baker, owner of the L.A.-based Conqueroo agency), strike a national distribution deal with Emergent Music Marketing/RED Distribution, and let excitement build before dropping Continuator on a hungry audience this spring.[iamge-2]
"It's been hard on us, because we wanted to give it to the people who would appreciate it," Gamble confesses. "You hate to go, every time you see 'em, 'Well, it's coming out.' We've looked like real slackers, but we needed time to make sure everything was in order."
The band's plan is to keep touring and steadily build audiences, until, Gamble jokes, they achieve world domination. "This is our fifth year in existence, and it hasn't been easy," he says. "It's a very frustrating business, but luckily, we love what we do, so we're gonna keep playing."
The Gamble Brothers Band currently hits the road four days a week, touring on a regional circuit that includes regular stops in St. Louis, New Orleans, and Knoxville. Up next: a tour with Crescent City jam-band kings Galactic, which starts in March.
With the stellar Continuator, their second release on the local Archer Records label, the Gamble Brothers Band joins the ranks of such great second-generation groups as the North Mississippi Allstars, the Bo-Keys, and the Drive-By Truckers, adroit at taking fundamentally Southern sounds -- blues, R&B, and countrified soul -- and adapting them for younger listeners.
Gamble and his brother Chad, who plays drums in the band, grew up in Truckers territory, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which, in the '60s and '70s, was ground zero for the soul-music industry. At studios like Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound, and with the help of songwriters like Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, and Donnie Fritts, Percy Sledge, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and James & Bobby Purify found their voice, while in the '70s, the Rolling Stones, Cher, and Rod Stewart all traveled to north Alabama to record.
"Chad and I were too young to have experienced the heyday of Muscle Shoals," Gamble says, "so we didn't know or appreciate that music until later. We do take a lot of our instrumentation from there, but our songwriting is different. We're not singing, 'Baby, I love you I need you,' but who knows? Maybe there's a little something in the water in Muscle Shoals."
Take the brothers' faultless musical sensibilities, factor in saxophonist Art Edmaiston's songwriting skills and soulful horn blasts, perfected in Bobby "Blue" Bland's backing band, and the progressive fretwork of bassist Blake Rhea, and you've got a deep, 21st-century groove that nearly bubbles over on songs like "Vinyl" and "E. Parkway Rundown." Other tunes, including "Shopping Cart," "Durty Walt," and "All Skate," draw on the group's combined jazz obsession, as Al Gamble delivers a Hammond organ sound that's equal parts Jimmy Smith and Booker T. Jones.
Although just one out of 13 tracks on Continuator clocks in over the three-and-a-half-minute mark, the Gamble Brothers Band has plenty of appeal in the jam-band market.
"That fan base is so loyal. They really network and help spread the word," Gamble notes. "We're not so much about the jam, though. We just like a good song."