Just saw this fantastic review of the GHSBBB album, I’ll Drink To That from Rick Davis at “The Groove.”
Check it out:
Griff Hamlin’s fascination for music started at an early age with the guitar being the instrument of choice.
In particular, his passion for the blues stemmed from guitar legends like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King, Scott Henderson, Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, and BB King.
His driving enthusiasm for music fueled his desire to perform the blues at a professional level.
As a part the Southern California club circuit, Griff and bassist Mark Smith started in 1992 as a quartet playing as many as 18-20 shows per month for several years. As a result of many hours of performing together, they released their first self titled CD of original tunes in 2001.
Griff and Mark built on a very successful album to create a new project, taking four of the tunes to record a new album with an expanded group of very seasoned musicians, including a four piece horn section.
The new group, Griff Hamlin and the Single Barrel Blues Band, just released their debut album I’ll Drink To That.
With music and lyrics by Griff Hamlin and horn arrangements by Tim Akers and Jon Kubis, this is one of the tightest West Coast bands that I have heard for a long time.
It features Griff Hamlin on guitar and vocals, Ty Bailie on keys, Mark Smith on bass, Chris Atchley on Drums, and that powerhouse horn section consisting of Jonathan Bradley on trumpet, Eric Letta on tenor and alto saxophones, Kevin Hicks on Trombone, and Laura Hamlin on baritone sax and auxiliary percussion.
This all-star band opens with horns blazing, blistering SRV like guitar riffs, and keyboards to match, for an explosive beginning to a collection with of award winning originals starting with “Almost Level With The Ground.”
The first thing, that comes to mind, could this be some of that Freddie King influence spilling out?
The band doesn’t throttle back much and they roll right into “Same To You,” that packs as much punch as the previous number, with the back line, especially Mark Smith on bass, keeping that groove nice and tight.
It sounds like a 10 piece horn section performing on “Down And Out.” The band gives you a 1, 2, 3 punch with a horn arrangement so resounding it will knock you off your feet, followed by some tasty barrelhouse piano from Ty Bailie, and finally the driving force from Griff’s guitar solos.
The band slows the pace on “Someone,” but Griff turns up the heat on guitar as he echoes the lyrics with all the soul he can muster up, “its hard to love someone when that someone don’t love you.”
Ty Bailie turns the focus to a legendary B3 solo as the tune builds to a robust crescendo for a fabulous finish.
The band explodes into “Nothing Better” driven by the rhythm section with the pulsating bass line from Mark Smith combined with a thunderous percussion performance from Chris Atchley.
The second portion of the album continues with four of the early tunes from the 2001 album The Griff Hamlin Band, recorded this time around with a sound more powerful than a charge of TNT.
The first original tune takes us for a stroll down Bourbon Street with “Louisiana Holiday,” showcased with horn solos done New Orleans style.
Griff proves that he knows his way around the fretboard with the jaw dropping guitar extravaganza “Don’t Lie.” Close your eyes and you can almost hear a live stage performance of Hamlin’s original done by the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan tearing it up with this all-star band.
Griff laments with anguish heard in both vocals and guitar riffs as Ty Bailie builds on piano and Mark Smith on bass with the band delivering the heartfelt, mournful original “Where Would I Begin.”
The last tune from the first album, “Got To End,” is both soulful and funky, with blistering guitar solos once again heard from Griff Hamlin.
The band finishes this collection with “Bourbon And a Pistol,” a tune combining jump blues and jazz for a stellar completion to an award winning album, showcasing the entire band individually.
With the completion of this album, the first thing that comes to mind is Albert King’s famous quote “If you don’t dig the blues you got a hole in your soul.”
After listening intensely to Griff Hamlin and The Single Barrel Band and their debut album I’ll Drink To That, I could easily nominate this one as “blues album of the year.”
This album is a masterful approach to the blues both lyrically and musically, performed by one of the most skillful blues all-star bands performing today.