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July/August 2002

Joe McBride and the Texas Rhythm Club
Keepin' It Real
Heads Up

Joe McBride and the Texas Rhythm Club's Keepin' It Real (Heads Up) opens with a cover of the electric-funk crusher "Woke Up This Morning," familiar to many as the theme to the startling HBO cable drama The Sopranos. Hearing this gritty take is a treat, from the stuttering piano and searing guitar, to McBride's gutteral vocal, spitting, "Born under a bad sign with a blue moon in your eyes." That said, listeners should be warned not to anticipate an album filled with this variety of tough-talking funk. In fact, the balance of Keepin' It Real is of an entirely different genre. Light, sparkling R&B proves to be McBride's sound of choice, as the pianist deftly high-steps and rolls through the elegant tones of "Lakewood," and the pure pop candy of "When You Smile." McBride flavors the mix with a light sprinkling of gospel on "His Name," and a sunny marimba-and-steel-pan drive on the South African-derived "Morning in a Distant Land." McBride sings a mournful, throaty plea on the acoustic-based "Can't Live Without You" which is as warm and natural as "Woke Up This Morning" is intense. Keepin' It Real proves a warm and artfully executed collection in its own right, though listeners may be thrown by the initial shock of contrast.

Originally published in July/August 2002
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