If the name Barrence Whitfield—soul shouter/Boston music legend—doesn’t mean anything to you, I have two things to say to you: 1) Where you been at the past 30 years? And 2) Take heart, because it’s never too late to join the Barrence Whitfield party. In fact, 2013 marks one of Whitfield’s highest profile releases, as the fine folks at Bloodshot have seen fit to release Dig Thy Savage Soul, Whitfield’s latest and greatest with his band the Savages. Whether you’re new to the scene or a longtime fan, Dig Thy Savage Soul is a primo slab of garage/R&B/soul/blues power from one of today’s top practitioners of the art.
Like any self-respecting bluesman, Whitfield’s got a bad woman (“My Baby Didn’t Come Home”, “Show Me Baby”) and a lowpaying job (a killer take on Bobby Hebb’s money-makes-the-world-go-round “Bread”), but he doesn’t let it get him down; in fact, dude’s having a blast – crooning, howling like Howlin’ Wolf, shouting from the rafters. So, too, is the rest of his band, especially guitarist Peter Greenberg (ex-Lyres) and sax man Tom Quartulli. Both men seem to be on a mission to peel the paint off the studio walls with their blistering solos, especially on the opening, Dirtbombs-y soul menace of “The Corner Man” and the album’s-over-but-the-party-ain’t closer cover of Jerry “Boogie” McCain’s “Turn Your Damper Down”. At the risk of overpraise, Barrence Whitfield is a treasure, with unbelievable pipes (and not just on the album cover), an unimpeachable discography (with great taste in cover tunes) and undeniable appeal. If you care a, uh, whit about soul and garage rock, you need Dig Thy Savage Soul in your life.