Brad Absher and the Superials project the root power of rock ‘n’ roll instantly and with assurance and style on the potent “Tulsa Tea.”
Absher sings these songs of personally lived experiences and universally aimed convictions in a voice like cannabis smoke and coarse ground coffee beans, soothing and packing a punch at once. In the album-opening “Be the Luv,” he vows “You don’t have to be perfect, just try to do the best you can, I’ll do the same, when you’re scared, I’ll take your hand.” That stirring pledge, over a dusty, effervescent beat, draws a listener in like an open-all-night sign in a saloon window at the end of one of those days. Grooving, and emotionally moving at once, this Oklahoman wears his heart on his sleeve full of undoubtedly interesting tatts through all eight songs on the album’s two perfectly sequenced “sides.”
Absher and his band — bassist Dylan Layton, drummer Matt Martin, guitarist Jake Hemphill, keyboardists EZ Mireless and Danny Timms, and backing vocalists Brianna Wright and Charlie Redd — treat each piece of full-disclosure art to differing shades of Southern expressiveness. On “Turn it Up” at the close of “Side B,” an effect like waves of coastal heat envelops Absher as he pours out unwavering love, the mood drifting easily as it should, enhanced supremely by Wright’s accompanying vocals. Cut live off the floor at the late, legendary Leon Russell’s studio in Absher’s hometown of Tulsa, the sessions seem to have been steeped in the flavors of albums cut there by Russell, JJ Cale, Freddie King, and even Bob Dylan. But having spent time in Houston, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana, Absher showcases his own natural take on it all.
“Neutral Ground,” second up on “Side A,” feels like a stroll through the French Quarter as a man makes his pleas of peace and understanding to his lady, the music languid, perhaps a little boozy. But immediately following, in the breezy, wistful “Goodbye for Now,” Absher’s as straight as an arrow through a heart torn to pieces. The mere act of writing this song and exposing it within such an easygoing melody must have been tough. But through it, Absher focuses on healing the unfathomable pain of losing his only child. “Side B” kicks off quite a bit differently, with the kick in the ass of “Hard Times,” the crunchy guitar rock underscoring with defiance how we’re all living these hard times for the truth.
The Crescent City again serves as the backdrop for the cool, boppin’ jazz of “So Tired,” with Hemphill’s spicy, pliant guitar notes approximating the daggers to the soul that Absher sings of. But Absher seems completely unafraid of daggers and pain. “Should Be Praying” proves it in a simple message that takes quite a bit of nerve to present right now. Brad Absher shows on this rough-cut gem of an eighth album how honest words and Southern styled rhythm and blues resonate the power of persuasion in a variety of ways. Keep and eye and ear on this guy.
Brad Absher and the Superials
Label: Horton Records
Release: June 10, 2022