There's a healthy dose of New Orleans funk and a touch of Nashville twang on Charleston songwriter Keith Bruce's latest solo album, Monkey Trap. The singer/guitarist veers a little too close to smooth jazz and Boz Scaggs-style baby-boomer soul for a few moments, but the strongest songs are the big rockers and heavy groovers.
Bruce recorded the collection with a handful of studio musicians at Dark Horse Recording in Franklin, Tenn. He and engineers Gave Hagen and Neil Young (not the superstar Neil Young) went with a super-crisp and clean production quality, which works well for most of the tunes, like the slinky, Dr. John-styled opening track "Go Home," a piano and guitar-driven tune with a killer solo from keyboardist Eddie Wilson. Bruce's warm rhythm guitar and electric bass lines propel "Stop," a brassy party anthem with feisty horns.
Bruce croons with an emphatic drawl on the ballad "Lord Let Me Die in Dixie." His natural geechee brogue comes through on some of the pop-rock tracks, like the bouncy "Pocotaligo," on the stiff reggae song "Cherry Bomb," and on the pedal steel-accented ballad "I'll Be Your Angel."
Bruce's lead guitar chops are terrific on stage, but he downplays them here. Fortunately, the breezy album closer "Hotel Konica" features two tastefully phrased solos that would make Steely Dan's Walter Becker smile. (keithbruce.net)