Real bar band music from Arkansas and Louisiana from a seasoned road dog.
I had not heard of 46-year-old Reece Sullivan until his self-released record ‘Middle Sea’ came whizzing through the ether and I suspect that, unless you live in and around Arkansas and Louisiana, then that will also be the case for most potential listeners. Sullivan is an Arkansas native who is now based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and would fall into the category of a road dog as and when COVID restrictions allow. ‘Middle Sea’ is his third solo release and he has recorded 8 songs with his Lafayette band comprising Matt Cobb drums, Justin Broussard bass and Jim McGee guitar. According to the associated publicity material, Sullivan’s third release is deliberately different from his previous albums including as it does old and new songs selected because of their more pop feel. However, the music to these ears is still firmly rooted in the music of the South.
The first track is ‘Pretty Carry’ and matches a reggae beat with a bluesy swing aided and abetted by horns. The song is evidently 17 years old and has been polished by Sullivan over years until he felt it was ready to release. While there is nothing particularly new in the sounds it is well played with no obvious over-reliance on pro-tools ensuring a live feel. Next up is ‘I’m Going To Heaven’ with a jaunty country shuffle and accompanying steel guitar. The second single release ‘Blood ’is next and we move to a more jam-band vibe that features guitarist Jim McGee while Reece Sullivan ponders historical hereditary bloodlines. We are next in singer-songwriter territory with ‘I’ve Encountered Many Troubles’ with acoustic guitar to the fore. ‘It’s A Good Day’ was written five years ago and features piano with a walking blues beat increasing the variation in styles featured. We are back to a dusty shuffle for ‘Riverband’ which reminds you Arkansas isn’t too far from Tulsa. Keyboards feature heavily at the start of ‘A Big Mistake’ with the basic track recorded in 2018 and additional colour added by Sullivan over the next couple of years. The final track ‘The Ball’ is another old song that has been crafted over many years before being recorded at Justin Broussard’s Lafayette studio in 2018 and this time the beat is like a slow waltz with splashes of electric guitar.
Reece Sullivan himself is on lead vocals and he has produced and added instrumental colour to ‘Middle Sea’ and while he won’t win any vocalist of the year awards his voice suits the music and clearly reflects his Arkansas and Louisiana background which gives him a head start when playing this type of music. Similar sentiments apply to the songs themselves which, while not particularly innovative or special, do again reflect the region that inspired them. The sound of the album reflects the fact that the basic tracks were recorded in hours rather than days and months with Reece Sullivan polishing them at his leisure. This is bar band music that is authentic and is enjoyable for that, and it will certainly go well with a few beers.