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Phil Gammage – Used Man For Sale – Album Review

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Phil Gammage’s Used Man For Sale opens on the dingy “Arms Of A Kind Woman” with its slow shuffle and dark, shady bar tone coating its country-tinged blues in an ominous way. Harmonica solos and soulful, slow bass lines add to the feel elegantly, although the latter would sound even more amazing with the right mix. The tone brightens on “Maybe Tomorrow” where Gammage emulates an Elvis slow jam down to the vocals, mixing in a stellar Jimmy Buffett styling to give the song an island feel along with some great guitars.

The Elvis overtones continue on “I Beg Of You” where Gammage returns to the dark bar sound with fury. The instrumentation sets the tone even better the second time around and the guitar solo hits the emotional climax perfectly, it’s only hold back is that it’s impossible to ignore how much Gammage’s vocals are playing on Elvis. On title-track “Used Man For Sale” Gammage sings over a reflective slow shuffle, with elegant harmonies and a stellar piano backing.

Ride With Railroad Bill” slows things down even more for a dark blues chug, just like the railroad of the titular Bill. Although the verses do move almost too slow for their own good the epic sound that comes from the mix of guitar and eerie harmonies creates such a beautiful air of mystery that it earns its slower moments. Gammage slips back to another lighthearted track on “Feeling The Hurt” and while losing some of the earlier instrumental elegance, really turns up his lyrical and vocal work, with the best harmonies of the album coming in on this track’s chorus.

The instant haze to the guitars on “Before I Leave” give the bass and vocals a great base to play on, and fits the lyrics perfectly. The keyboards also sound the best of any track here, but get lost at times due to the way the chorus abandons the track’s dark feel. “Tenderloin” hits its groove immediately, paying tribute to the famous San Francisco neighbourhood, with a passionate driving feel. The track is the most swinging of any on the album and really only suffers from not capitalizing on this more.

Honky Tonk takes hold on “Lost In Loserville” slipping back to another familiar back and forth saved by some great backing vocals and the way the bass line plays against predictability. Closing track “Staring Out Our Window” closes the track on an organ-filled track with the heaviest blues tone of the album and its most ecstatic guitar solo.

Used Man For Sale will scratch the itch of those looking for a great throwback to the Orbisons and other great blues singers of yesteryear with a bit of modern influence and great instrumentation to boot, only held back at times by how much Gammage emulates Elvis in the vocals. That said, if you’re expecting more modern than old-school, look elsewhere as this album may colour in the lines a little too much for some.