Based out of Cincinnati, where he’s been a fan favorite for decades, Leroy Ellington is best known for his work as a sax playing front man for several of the hottest R&B bands working on both sides of the Ohio River. After switching to soul blues about seven years ago, his performances remain just as funky – as this CD clearly shows.
A perennial nominee for Cincinnati Music Awards, Ellington’s career began in the ‘80s as a member of Ritchie And The Students, a doo-wop group led by Richard Johnson, who penned “I’m So Young,” a tune picked up by the Beach Boys and featured in the movie “Cry Baby.” Before going off on his own to form a funk band in 1994, he spent several years in support of bluesman Stacy Mitchhart.
The Sacred Hearts got their start as The Leroy Ellington Band in 2012, and have been making their mark ever since. Their most recent previous release under that name, “Blue Eyed Blues,” was a semi-finalist in the best self-produced album category at the 2017 International Blues Challenge.
The Sacred Hearts roster is composed of several of the top musicians in the Queen City: Max Gise and Marcos Sastre on guitars, Charlie Fletcher on keyboards and accordion, Mike Grosser on bass and Rick “Bam” Powell on percussion. They’re enhanced on one or two cuts each by Chuck Brisbin on harmonica, Dwayne Irvin on sax, Matthew Anklan on trumpet and Chris Arduser and Teddy Wilburn on drums.
A powerful vocalist with old-school appeal who delivers fat notes with his horn, Ellington penned all 11 songs on this one. An extended stop-time intro kicks off “Good Time Blues,” which lays the groundwork for what’s to follow with the opening lines: “I don’t know what you came to do/We came here to party. You better put on your dancing shoes/We’re gonna party hardy.” And they aren’t kidding.
The funk kicks in big time on “Gotta Keep Movin’ On,” which is built atop a driving guitar riff. It’s a vow to continue on no matter what type of hardship life presents. The mood brightens with the medium-slow shuffle “Let’s Make Love,” which delivers a message that it doesn’t matter what your color – we should all get along.
The guitar-driven ballad “What Would You Do” questions how you’d live your last day on earth before the action heats up for “Doghouse,” a blues-rocker that describes the payback the singer receives after returning home from having too much fun during successful night on the town. The horn- and harp-fueled “Family Thing” repeats the need for racial harmony again atop a groovy beat before Ellington and cohorts deliver a little New Orleans soul with “Something Funky Goin’ On,” a stop-time pleaser.
The intensity drops slightly but builds throughout for the rocker “Until We Meet Again,” a message of longing and love for a father who’s on the run, while the jazzy “Two Tons Of Fun” – a description of the Sacred Hearts in action — brightens the mood dramatically. “Looking In The Mirror” — a straight-ahead slow blues — and the funky “Stone Cold Bad” – in which Ellington describes his lust for women of all shapes and sizes — bring the action to a close.
Available from Amazon, iTunes and other retailers, Sanctified smokes in an attack that’s a little harder and distinctly different from what you might hear out of Chicago, Memphis and parts south. If you’re a fan of soul blues, this one’s definitely worth a listen.