Photo by Jeffery Luhn

Album Review: The Birthday Sessions

By PT Gazell (Master of swing on the half-valved diatonic harmonica, Creator of the Gazell Method)

OK, I admit I’m a Slide Man Slim & Penny Hanna fan. They epitomize everything I admire about independent artists. They write all their own material, they play all the instruments, they do all their own vocals as well as record, mix and master the projects themselves.

Sure most of us have become renaissance artists in at least a few of these disciplines but there are not so many of us who excel at all of them...they do.

Their latest offering of 10 songs has obviously been a labor of love. The superbly crafted tunes cover a span of years starting in 2016 and complete the journey in 2019. The patience involved with nursing a project this long is something I sure don’t have. My tendency would be to tinker with it so much that I would eventually remove the magic. Thankfully Slim and Penny don’t seem to have that issue. Every song seems fresh, fun, correct and like they recorded them 10 minutes ago.

Penny’s bass playing is rock steady. Her vocals and phrasing are exactly what the songs call for. Her clarinet is wonderful and such a great compliment to chromatic harmonica and steel guitar.

Slim is one of those gifted musicians who seamlessly move from one instrument to another. For those of us in the harmonica community, we are all acutely aware of how accomplished he is on the chromatic. His guitar playing is tasteful and spot on. His steel guitar playing, at least for me, has all the right elements to it. His vocal, like Penny’s are just what the song calls for. The percussion and Clarinet are right in the pocket as well.

There is not a weak tune on this CD. There are a few standouts for me.

“When We Were Young”

A Latin feel recounting I assume Penny and Slim’s relationship. A great hooky feel that makes me want to study this genre more. So good.

“If I Didn't Love You”

Clever lyrics and almost a Tin Pan Alley feel in chord structure and feel. So well structured.

“No Greater Thrill”

Yeah I’m sucker for Waltz time. This one almost sounds like French café music but with an American this. More clever lyrics.

“Word Can't Explain”

One of two instrumentals on this CD. Slim outdoes himself here. It almost has a Michael McDonald meets Steely Dan sort vibe.

I would be remiss if I did not mention how good this project sounds. It jumps off the speakers and sounds like an analog recording. This is a testament to Slim’s ears and understanding of his gear and recording environment. Their previous recordings have always been good but this one sounds like a 6 figure high-end studio project.

Well done...can I be in the band?

Buy this CD or download it and help support independent artists who strive to better their art for everyone.