Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers have harnessed their power and approach, moving from what this writer felt was rather overdone, way-too-loud blues rock into a more electrifying, captivating, just-enough-restrained sound to deliver a combustible but accessible album with No Good Deed. The musicians come from very different backgrounds and this is only their album. Sometimes it takes that long to coalesce. Whatever the case, they came with their A-game here, recording the album in just five days with producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Joe Bonamassa) at the helm.
They purposely didn’t try to overthink things and rely on creativity and that special adrenaline that comes from gathering the group together. Abair says, “We’re all in the studio at the same time and we’re really cognizant of how we want to capture and keep that spirit, that energy, that chemistry – because sometimes you can lose it after playing through a song too many times—it’s just not the same, because you’re thinking about it too much.”
The band members have respective pedigrees in punk, jazz, and blues. Saxophonist and lead vocalist Abair, twice Grammy-nominated, of course, was in a jazz mode before transforming into a blues-rocker. She’s joined by Randy Jacobs (guitar, vocals), Rodney Lee (keys), Ben White (bass, vocals) and Third Richardson (drums, vocals). They operate as a collective, sharing songwriting credits and bringing their own approach to this mix of originals and well-chosen covers from the Rascals, Etta James, and others.
The opening rollicking old school track “Seven Day Fool” was written by Billy Davis and made famous by Etta James while Richardson duets with Abair on Ike & Tina Turner’s rocking closer “Baby, Get It On” as Lee Thornburg and Paulie augment the punch with their horns. Cerra In the middle we have “Good Day for the Blues,” associated mostly with Ruth Brown, and featuring one of Abair’s most soulful sax solos as she takes the song out. Shirley contributed the Rascals’ “You Better Run” (later a mega hit for Pat Benatar). It gives the band, and especially Jacobs on guitar a chance to just let loose and rock out.
The second track, from which the album takes its title, is “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished<’ written by Abair, Jacobs, and Dave Yaden. It’s a stomper that begins with a crowd-like arena chorus that never lets up. Its polar apposite may be the haunting, bluesy “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul,” written by Abair and Tyrone Stevens about regaining some footing after a breakup. It’s Abair’s best vocal track, immensely soulful and cutting deep as does her tenor solo. Another sultry track is “Bad News” where Richardson plays a cut crystal glass instead of a triangle to produce a tingle that’s a counterpoint to Abair’s gritty sax. Guest Nick Lane’s trombone makes the sound even more robust. The band’s penchant for straight-ahead rock is best exemplified in “Movin” On,” where the band cranks on all cylinders.
According to Abair the band pushed themselves into spaces they were comfortable in but hadn’t revealed yet to the world. Now, that we’ve seen this side, we can really embrace them, an irresistible combination of power and soul.