By Mike O’Cull
San Francisco’s award-winning roots outfit The Lucky Losers continue bending American music to their will on their brand-new album Standin’ Pat.
Released October 28th, 2022 by the VizzTone Label Group, the record finds principle members Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz leading the band through another dazzling set of tunes that combine blues, R&B, and Americana flavors in their own unique ways. The sessions were produced by the legendary Kid Andersen at his Greaseland USA studio and he did a bang-up job of capturing each bit of magic as it happened. Vocalist Lemons and harmonica man Berkowitz have a remarkable chemistry together in front of the band and it’s easy to see why they won five Independent Blues Awards in 2021.
The Lucky Losers have been rocking houses since 2014 and just keep getting better. Both Lemons and Berkowitz are veteran performers with distinguished backgrounds. Lemons is from Texas and has gained much attention for her commanding vocal style. She’s worked with many major blues artists including Tommy Castro, Kid Andersen, Anson Funderburgh, and John Lee Hooker and has released three studio albums under her own name.
Berkowitz is a New Jersey native who has become one of the premier harp players and singers on the West Coast. He’s worked with Ben Rice, Duke Robillard, and Billy Branch and has also put out three solo albums. The remainder of the lineup is rounded out by keyboardist Chris Burns, guitarist Ian Lamson, bassist Joe Kyle Jr., and drummer Robi Bean. All this horsepower adds up to a powerhouse group with a distinct personality.
Standin’ Pat gets underway with the jaunty and sophisticated “Pack Up The Bags.” The song touches on New Orleans and Dixieland influences that are quickly mixed with the band’s own ideas. Lemons is a hypnotic and seductive singer who leans all the way into every line she delivers. Berkowitz’s harp work is big and strong and he sounds amazing next to the sweet horn section that ices this song’s cake.
“Somewhere In The Middle” is funky, lowdown, and socially relevant. It’s a hip-hugger of a tune that will set your bones in motion but also speaks to the divided public climate we all have to navigate our way through. Berkowitz steps up on lead vocals and speaks his mind with conviction and confidence. The rhythm section absolutely kills the pocket here, too, putting down the kind of funk that lingers in your mind for days.
One of the most enjoyable songs on Standin’ Pat is “Rich Strike.” It’s a bouncy, country-ish number that immortalizes the story of the horse of the same name who roared out of obscurity to win The Kentucky Derby. The Lucky Losers turn that story into an up-tempo cut featuring some of Cathy and Phil’s best moments on the entire album. Phil’s harp licks at the end are especially cool.
“Rust Belt Blues” is a minor key jewel that flirts with vintage swing blues. It has a pre-war sensibility that would fit nicely between two Django tunes and a couple of cocktails. Lemons gives this one everything in her gas tank and turns in a performance that’s positively mesmerizing.
Be sure to listen all the way through the album to reach the old-school soul of the title track that finishes the party. It’s a pumping dance tune full of horns and uplifting vocals that will make your day a better place. Berkowitz excels at this type of material and his vocals are expressive and fun.
The Lucky Losers are a superb band with a truly authentic vision of what roots music should be. Standin’ Pat articulates that vision in a way that’s likely to win another whole trophy case of awards. Spin it once and you won’t be able to stop. Highly recommended.
Order Standin’ Pat see Here