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The Mescal Sheiks: Press

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Mescal Sheiks: 'This World Is Not My Home'

The Mescal Sheiks, a Los Angeles-based band, blend blues, soul and gospel about as well as anyone I've heard since Pops Staples died.

In fact, "How Long," the first track on their 2006 release, "This World Is Not My Home," and "Healin' Love" remind me of Staple Singers songs. Others such as "Better Get Ta' Steppin' and "Got to Have Me Two" tread closer to the New Orleans blues and funk that Dr. John has mined for so many years.

"Walking to the River" is a flat-out gorgeous gospel tune with some slide guitar licks and vocal harmonies that seem to float down from the clouds. The fat sounds of an organ get "Baby Whatcha Do" off to an easy-rolling start that heats up when the sounds of a bluesy guitar join the party.

Some of you might remember The Hangan Brothers, which spawned The Mescal Sheiks. More probably know Clabe Hangan from the Ben Harper albums on which he provided exquisite backing vocals, and keyboard player Rick Solem from his work with folks such as Dave Alvin and Duane Jarvis. "This World Is Not My Home" illustrates that you should know The Mescal Sheiks, too.

!!! MAZZMUSIKAS HATS OFF: ALL HITS, NO MISSES!!! The Mescal Sheiks/This World is Not My home/Blue cap BC 1003 ( The Mescal Sheiks is a collection of musicians from New York, Chicago, Arkansas and Los Angeles, based in Los Angeles. These songwriters and musicians write with their fat, funky and soulfull style, which they define as rootsy. Clabe Hangan (vocal), Rick Solem (keys, vocal, prod), Rick Smith (harm) and Dean Sterling (gtr, vocal) form the core for the CD; along with the superb Texicali Horns, a rhythm section and the vocal backing of Elizabeth Hangan. Every member writes number of the songs, most in collaboration. Solem and Sterling, however, write most of the material. On "This World is Not My Home" nothing that we have heard rather, but it is a telling collection of styles. And that is what makes this so good. Influences abound, and this appreciation is seen in the quality of the song material, "How Long" is a strong opener, but "It Doesn't Really Matter" is the forsting on top of it: as if Booker T. Jones came by and brought everybody Stax. "Fool For You" has Little Feat and Bonnie Raitt thing going, as does "Sugar Hoodoo" Chicago is the style of the singing of Hangan and the harp of Smith in "Honey The Night is Young" " Live From The Gates or Hell" with its horns is patented Memphis soul and a superb nod Al Green. "Walking To The River" with its intro and the fragile singing of Hangan and the harmony vocals; makes it a ballad, a hymn and a gospel song at the same time. The last time we heard some thing this moving was from John Hyatt. It is the song that Robbie Robertson never wrote for The Band. "Looking Out 4 #1" sounds like some thing written from the catalog of Allen Toussant. "This World Is Not My Home" is a great piece of work and it makes us very curious to hear what the Mescal Sheiks sound like live!
Marc Nolis - MazzMuskas Roots Town Music) Belgium (May 13, 2007)
Marc Nolis - MazzMuskas (May 13, 2007)
Although based in Los Angles there are influences from as far a field as the Mississippi delta, Chicago and Memphis. And they've clearly stopped off to pick up a bagful of New Orleans' eclectic musical salsa to add to the melting pot that makes up the sound of the Mescal Sheiks. The result is a sound of their own that can best be described as 'Mardi Gras blues'.

This mix of styles and genres is evident throughout this fine collection. "It Doesn't Really Matter" has a hint of Stax and a just a bit of gospel feel to it coupled with a wonderfully subtle Booker-T style organ in the background that makes it the highlight of the album. The opening track, "How Long", has a 'funkier up tempo blues sound; while "Better Get Ta Steppin' is reminiscent of Troyce Key & JJ Malone mixed with Louis Jordan and his Tympani Five. "Healin' Love" opens up with a Bootsy Collins style funky bass line, and then just keeps on going. With "Baby Watcha Do" and "Live From The Gates of Hell" it sounds like Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown and Doctor John have joined the party.
The diversity and versatility of the band is emphasised by their rendition of the spiritual influenced songs "Walking To The River" and "This World Is Not My Home". Ably assisted on many of the tracks by the Texacali Horns this is music that is stripped back to the basics. No frills, nothing fancy and no over laboured production to distract you. It's just good music - plain and simple.
Obviously influenced by their diverse backgrounds from New York, Chicago, Arkansas, and L.A. the Mescal Sheiks have combined a unique blend of ingredients to create their own sound. It’s not Memphis, or New Orleans, or Mississippi, it’s the Sheiks own. I hear a little influence of the Blind Boys of Alabama if there is any direct association. Nonetheless it’s good, subtle, and solid. Good enough for a 4.7 on my STLBluesometer
Gator - (Dec 21, 2006)
Though the title might suggest an album of spirituals, "This World Is Not My Home" (Blue Cap 1003) is a top-flight set of blues originals. Clabe Hangan compellingly sings the compositions of Rick Solem (keyboards) and Dean Sterling
(guitar). Rick Smith (harp) rounds out the Mescal Sheiks; the Texacali Horns and the rhythm section are guests. The Sheiks touch on the sounds of New Orleans ("Fool for You" and "Sugar Hoodoo"), 1940's Chicago ("Got To Have Me Two"), and Texas shuffles ("Baby Whatcha Do" with a great organ sound and a killer push from drummer Albert Trepagnier. "Healin' Love", "How Long", and "Live From the Gates of Hell" have a contemporary feel, with pulsating bass, big horns, and lush backing vocals. Their strongest tracks --- the title cut (indeed a spiritual); "It Doesn't Really Matter" a brassy, organ-fueled, Southside Johnny-style soul killer; "Walking to the River", reminiscent of John Hiatt's "Bring the Family" ballads- break the mold.
Tom Hyslop - Blues Revue Magazine- Dec/Jan 2006 (Nov 12, 2006)
I've reviewed hundreds of records over the past decade or so and I gotta say that The Mescal Sheiks' "This World Is Not My Home" is one of the best I've yet heard this year! Just terrific! And I'm a sucker for horns...
David J. Klug - Rave On! Entertainment (Nov 9, 2006)
"This World Is Not My Home" is the new debuut album of the The Mescal Sheiks coming from Los Angeles. In America the link is already immensely popular and performs them much in sold off rooms. At hearing this debuut you understand already fast why. The link plays overwhelming and persuading and has a very own sound. New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas city and L.A. meet in soulvolle mix of blues by unique line-up, existing from: Clabe Hangan (vocal), Rick Solem (keyboards, vocal), Rick Smith (harmonica) and Dean Sterling (jet ear, vocal). The songmateriaal are from beginning to end strong, and at listening to "This World Not My home" are, it is, however, clear that this set of four has leentjebuur at their large examples gespeelt. Striking to this strong plate is not only totally home-made numbers, which zanger Clabe Hangan seems has been written on the lijf, but also the good line in these Mescal Sheiks plate. The most traditional elements retrieve we on a large number of numbers on the plate, pieces spun out with southern/soul blues, R&B and gospel screen. Their thirteen funky own composities are moreover of a super quality and belong certainly to the bests we could what hear the last months in this genre. On "This World are Not My home" mixt this set of four with the aid of bass player Michael Barry, drummer Albert Trepagnier Jr. ones, gitarist Billy Watt, backing vocalist Elizabeth Hangan, percussionist Billy Sullivan and horn the, however, well-known section, the Texacali Horns, existing from Joe Sublett (tenor sax) and Darrell Leonard (trumpet), blues, roots, soul, funk, R&B and gospel to their own sound. In their frequently jointly written numbers they melt these influences to at the same time rootsy and striking strong, catchy melodies. Most of the numbers have been written by Rick Solem and gitarist Dean Sterling is hear writingwriting writing is in nine of the thirteen tracks. Daaroverheen sound stemmige the refrains exuberantly but haarzuiver, beside Hangan's lived through leadzang. The numbers have been incorporated all in the Cloverland studios, North Hollywood, California, in a spotless production of Rick Solem. The prerecordings radiate losheid and ongedwongenheid from as a result of which the game pleasure is notable a lot. That is see also to the rhythm section which plays tightly. Beside the funky "Got To property me Two", the Taj Mahal's getinte "Fool For You", the slow shuffle "Honey The Night are Young" and "Walking To The River" that such as the titeltrack a very gospel has feeling, our attention goes out especially to "baby Whatcha do" and "Sugar Hoodoo", songs in which the organ work of Rick Solem very central state. A very large verassing therefore. "This World Not My home" can become have been thus seen as a plate of which I had hoped that be still made that.
I wasn't sure about this album on my first play - I thought it was a bit thin and nothing more than an average pub band. However, after a few plays the guys from Los Angeles have grown on me. The CD is a mix of Blues, soul and R&B whilst the title track is pure gospel. Vocalist Clabe Hangan sings with a relaxed confidence and is supported by keyboards, harmonica and guitar. Some tracks are augmented with bass, drums and a horn section. Nearly all the songs are attributed to Rick Solem, the band's keyboard player, who contributes some boogie-woogie piano on the album. They are definitely an above average pub band and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.”
earBuzz Review: Authentic blues is hard to come by. You hear, 'it's a blues band - or 'he's a blues guitar player'. .'i like to singme da blues' - yet - mostly what you get is a homogenized split top butter bread softy center music without any edge that trumpets to the listener, "i know life and I know pain - and I don't care if you listen or not, I have to sing it to make me feel better". That's the blues. The Mescal Sheiks seem to have that in their instrumentation and performance (from harmonica to laid back set and bass) to guitars, horns, and keyboards. But the voice of the Sheiks, on Clabe Hangan, has blues dripping off his vocal chords so fluently that it's probably an electrical hazard when it hits the microphone. The first track, "How Long", gives us a glimpse of the mix of Motown vocal acrobatics and straight blues that's ahead. Background vocals caress the textured tenor, while perfectly distorted harmonica cries. .great. Track 3, "Got to Have Me Two", pleads the case for two women for one man. Track 5, "Fool for You", is a well-produced full band effort about the blues of addiction, whether it's money to a needle or to a woman. Our favorite track is the uptempo number, "Baby Whatcha Do", - straight ahead love. The title track seals the record right - "This World is Not My Home" is a gospel/blues vocal gem with accompanying harmonica. We look forward to more, and to see them live.
Growing out of the Hangan Brothers band, a local blues organization that has charmed Southland audiences for years, The Mescal Sheiks pick up the ball and carry on the tradition admirably. They party hearty and boogie tirelessly with lead singer Clabe Hangan at the controls. New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City and L.A. all come together in this melting pot of blues hues that includes soulful horns, wailing harmonica, fiery guitar, a swingin’ rhythm section, and convincing vocals.

Hangan sings “Honey the Night is Young” with Rick Smith’s harp alongside, reminding us that we’ve been there, done that, and will continue finding a place to have a good time until the world ends. He even mentions The Blue Café in his lyrics, pointing out that we need to get together on a regular basis in order to live our lives to the fullest. Later, he sings “This World is Not My Home” in a solemn reflection that looks for direction. Like the entire program, this is an original song that the band has put together after much soul-searching. Through the song’s lyrics, Hangan asks about society’s role in our lives. Are we alone, or may we count on those around us reliably? The Mescal Sheiks answer his questions indirectly through their music, as they join him in a beautiful musical portrayal that come with deep feeling.

Jim Santella - Southland Blues Magazine- August 2006 (Aug 5, 2006)
This group is related to the Hangan Brothers, who we reviewed sometime back there. Clabe Hangan is the singer, and Rick Smith is playing harmonica, but the other musicians are different, and this CD is more of a Soul/Blues/R&B effort where the earlier title was kinda Country Blues. Clabe's wife Elizabeth also sings, giving a Staples Singers feel to some tracks. While the group is listed a 4 piece (keyboards, harmonica, guitar and vocals), extra help is provided by the Texacali Horns and rhythm section players. "Got To Have Me Two" has a nice funky down home feel. Keyboard player Rick Solem also does some of the singing, as on "Better Get Ta Steppin" with a nice two beat feel. All the tunes are original to the group, with Solem having his hands on most, and guitarist Dean Sterling also having a hand in 9 of the 13 tunes. Harmonica player Rick Smith and Hangan also are involved in some of the writing. "Fool For You" has a Taj Mahal ("She Caught The Katy") feel. "Honey The Night Is Young" is a nice lazy shuffle. "Walking To The River" returns to that Gospel feel as does the title song. I like the organ on "Baby Whatcha Do" and "Sugar Hoodoo" has that second line feel, and may be my favorite track."
“Yeah, Rick Solem is a motherf..... on the piano. I place him right next to The Blasters Gene Taylor in the boogie woogie/blues/New Orleans style of piano playing. He's also an extrmemely talented songwriter. He was recently at my house and played me some of his new songs. Amazing stuff. Sort of like Randy Newman and John Lennon writing songs with Professor Longhair. Hopefully he can get a CD out of his new material and get known for his writing as well as his piano chops. What I've said about Rick Shea also goes for Rick Solem, once a Guilty Man, always Guilty in my book.”
Dave Alvin - Some Very Generous Comments About Rick Solem (Jun, 2006)
This one fine, sophisticated and unique hybrid of influences makes this one album not to be ignored..The Mescal Sheiks are made up of a group of musicians and songwriters based in Los Angeles, who first collaborated on various Hangan Brothers projects. Though California they are, not all started out in the Golden State. Points of origin for the diverse crew, made up of Clabe Hangan (on vocals), Rick Solem (on keyboards and vocals), Rick Smith (on harmonica) and Dean Sterling (on guitar and vocals) vary widely, and include New York, Chicago, and Arkansas. All this makes for some powerful and impressive crosscurrents of which they exploit to the hilt. Like a bowl of fruit tossed into a blender, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Musically, that same principal equals inventiveness, risk-taking and things that are new. The depth of talent on this project is further expanded by bass player Michael Barry, drummer Albert Trepagnier, Jr., guitarist Billy Watts, backing vocalist Elizabeth Hangan, percussionist Billy Sullivan, and the gold standard duo among all horn sections these days, the Texacali Horns- made up of Joe Sublett on tenor sax and Darrell Leonard on trumpet (known for their distinguished work as members of the Phantom Blues Band). Maybe it's the weather, or something else, but there is something unique about a city that can spawn outfits like War and Los Lobos. There is something about both the Hangan Brothers, and now The Mescal Sheiks, that comes from that same fertle soil. This is American music all the way, and it draws life from any number of influences, not the least of which is the blues. Thirteen tunes. Highly recommended.
George P. Seedorff - Big City Blues Magazine Apr/May 2006
First up is a band out of Los Angeles called The Mescal Sheiks, I was turned onto them from a friend on myspace. Yes, i am a part of that odd and interesting cyberspace universe and I've discovered it's a pretty good place to find new music, some old favorites, and it's constantly growing. Anyhow, the CD is called "This World Is Not My Home" released on Blue Cap Records and I like this little gem...Initially I wasn't sure about it. I knew that the playing was solid, but at first listen the vocals seemed a little thin, but after a couple of re-plays you realize the the singing is actually terrific and suited perfectly to the rural, southern - soul blues, R&B, gospel feel of the disc. Clabe Hangan sings with a relaxed confidence that is a little deceiving,. He's solid throughout with deep emotion and subtle expressiveness. The band too with its core of Rick Solem on keyboards and vocals, Rick Smith on Harmonica and Dean Sterling Guitar and vocals - they are augmented here with various bass, drum, percussion and horn players as well as some extra backing vocals - they are a well equipped and talented bunch, providing heartfelt backing, whether it's a straight blues or a more ethereal old school southern R&B sound- they seem to be just right for each song's style and intent. Never overstated or over powering, they seem to always be right in the pocket keeping a steady groove and driving the vibe home straight through your ears and into the deep reaches of your soul. The Mescal Sheiks are an interesting and talented group and with a bit of luck should receive some great recognition as their music takes hold...
April 2006