Lowell-based bluesman Frank Morey hasn’t always had much luck capturing the infectious energy of his soulful live performances on his studio recordings. But with Shods drummer Scott Pittman playing an old-school trap kit and Joe " Tub " Faria filling in the bottom on upright bass, he lets it all hang out on The Delmark Sessions. Morey takes center stage with his gutsy harmonica blowing, aggressive steel- and acoustic-guitar playing, and gruff vocals, conjuring images of ’30s and ’40s barrooms filled with loose women and broken-hearted drunks.
Some half-dozen of the 20 tracks here had been released previously; he’s found the right setting for himself in these sessions, however, and the older material blends in just fine. His voice and his not quite traditional approach to roots music have drawn comparisons with Tom Waits, but Morey’s more grounded blue-collar blues has none of the high-concept postmodern baggage of Waits’s carnivalesque character studies. And though there may be a kitschy element to his stylizing — something similar to the so-called swing revival of the ’90s — his earnest delivery marks The Delmark Sessions as a homage to old American blues rather than mere retro escapism.