Never afraid to take the proverbial bull by the horns, Seattle-based singer songwriter and band leader, Michele D’Amour – Michele De-MOORE (rhymes with “the floor”), – releases her fourth album, “Wiggle Room,” the inaugural debut on her record label, with her band, The Love Dealers. All this comes hard on the heels of a last year’s album, “Lost Nights At The Leopard Lounge,” from which one of the tracks won a Grand Prize in the 2017 John Lennon Songwriting Competition.
“Wiggle Room” also marked a point of expansion for D’Amour and her team as she added four new members to the band. She teamed up with Washington Blues Society Hall of Fame member and renowned guitarist Mark Riley to produce the record and recorded all the rhythm tracks at Strange Earth Studios with Grammy-winning engineer Steve Feasley. The ten new tracks feature D’Amour’s powerhouse vocals and renowned songwriting and showcase the talents of new guitarist Jeff Cornell and drummer Dave Delzotto, while adding the elements of a full-time keyboardist in Brian Olendorf and sax man Noel Barnes to the Love Dealers sound. The collection is also an expansion of style, pushing beyond the group’s previous catalog of straight-ahead blues, funk and rockin’ soul and delving into jazz, swing, boogie, Latin and touches of country and gospel.
The opening track, ‘Falling Down,’ is some hot funk with an Albert Collins edge, with Cornell and Barnes trading solo licks. D’Amour then delivers some quick advice for all the gals on the swinging ‘Sweet Lovin’ Man,’ with long time Seattle Blues Diva Nora Michaels joining her on the chorus. Trumpeter Greg Lyons plays the role of Chet Baker on the luscious jazz lounge title track. Barnes lets his sax wail while D’Amour channels Lydia Pense for the East Bay Soul burner ‘Honey On The Side.’ Bass man Patrick McDanel digs deep into the walking line on the upright as D’Amour paints a vivid picture of the homeless man on the corner, who could be any one of us given a set of unfortunate circumstances in ‘Nothing To No One.’ The tune again showcases Lyons on a Miles Davis-inspired flugelhorn solo, joined by McDanel on trombone.
The Southern California sound of ‘Let It Slide’ also colors an important message about tolerance and self-preservation with conga man Angelo Ortiz adding spice to the smooth groove. D’Amour plays the woman scorned on the break neck boogie ‘Been So Long,’ and delves further into the psyche of self-esteem on the dramatic torch song ‘Worthy,’ featuring a haunting guitar riff by Cornell. Olendorf then flashes his skills on the keys with some jaunty ragtime piano on ‘He Can’t Be Wrong,’ a timely rebuke of a common bully. He then delivers a classical intro to the album closer ‘Hard Times,’ a heartfelt gospel-infused lament that paints an all-too-clear picture of current events, with John Oliver III adding soulful backing vocals.
Michele D’Amour is a songwriter, who is fulfilling her mission, as stated in the liner notes, to make music that reflects the moments of joy amid times of struggle, because when we feel most deeply is when art is clear and focused, and the message on point.