Blues artist Leonard Griffie's new CD, "Give It To Me," clearly showcases skilled musicians along with substance. At the helm of the 11 songs he's penned, he leads on guitars and plays bass. Other tracks feature drummer Taylor Murphy — a recent graduate of Boston's Berklee College of Music — and Portland sideman Pat McDougall on keys, Ashland musician Brian Risling on sax and trumpet and Billy Rock Smith — a local favorite — singing backup vocals.
"They are accomplished musicians and there is that technical component," Griffie says. "But I want the emotional response to be there as well. I hope to convey both."
Who: Leonard Griffie
and In the Pocket
When: 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6
Where: Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, 35 N. Main St., Ashland
Call: 541-482-8818 or see www.alexsrestaurantandbar.com
The title song features Griffie's low, swinging, slide guitar that sounds much like an old Chicago-style, electrified Delta blues number.
"Everything is open to interpretation, but I do hear it that way," Griffie says. "It feels like Delta blues that may have been done acoustically, then carried over to Chicago blues. All Delta and Chicago blues have that signature guitar riff that drives the song.
"It's the one slide-guitar tune on the record," Griffie says. "I play a lot more slide at live shows."
Griffie and In the Pocket — with Smith on drums, Mark Cunningham on bass and McDougall on keys — will debut the new CD from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, 35 N. Main St., Ashland.
"We'll do a set as In the Pocket first," Griffie says. "Then we'll do the entire CD. We're hoping that Risling and harmonica player Phil Newton will sit in."
"Give It To Me" was recorded at Griffie's Pongoboy Studio in Medford, then mixed and mastered by Bob Pagano at Mountain View Productions near Wilderville.
"The record is as much old-style R&B as it is blues," Griffie says. "'Beside Myself' is really more of a Southern R&B sound, like Muscle Shoals or Stax, rather than Motown."
Risling's sax shines on "It's Mine." Griffie met Risling when the horn player sat in with Griffie and Karen Lovely at Alex's. Risling played with Lovely this summer at her shows at Agate Ridge Winery.
Griffie gives listeners a nice harmonica track on "A Long Way Back" that was initially intended for Eugene harp player Hank Shreve.
"I don't play harmonica live, and a lot of people were surprised when they heard the demo version," Griffie says. Griffie's friends also are calling his singing on "I Don't Wanna" his "Al Green" vocals.
"They're must be something in common with the style," he says. "It's more emotional than other songs on the album, and the lyrics are simple compared to the others. But it's got a great groove, and it gets people onto the dance floor."
"Lost Forever" also is a stand-out with its mysterious, funky groove.
"You typically don't hear guitar synth patches in blues and R&B," Griffie says. "I stepped outside of the box on that one and it really works for me. I just love that sound.
"My thing about classic blues guys like Albert King, Freddie King, T-Bone Walker, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, is that they weren't trying to emulate the blues artists that came before them," Griffie says. "They were trying to be cutting edge and stand out from the others.
"Today there are too many artists trying to sound like someone other than themselves. The thing to do is push the boundaries a bit and sound distinctive."
In the Pocket has been selected to represent the Ashland Blues Society at the 2014 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. It will be Griffie's third trip to the Home of the Blues. He and a band called The Blue Devils competed in the '90s at IBC, and he performed with Karen Lovely at a Blues Music Awards ceremony.
"Billy and Mark put together a solid rhythm section for the band," Griffie says. "They're the reason we call it In the Pocket, which means that the rhythm is tight. Billy's also an accomplished singer and songwriter, and the two of us have a lot of fun creating original music."
The band will be accepting donations to pay for its trip to Memphis at Alex's show.