Gary Kendall Dusty & Pearl

Gary Kendall is a fixture on the Canadian blues scene and, to those who know him, a stand-up guy’s guy. Dusty & Pearl represents an artist clearly inspired by his love of the music business, his family and the people all around him — and that’s something audible here. A true co-op, Dusty & Pearl is wall-to-wall with artists eager to pitch in and support a true friend (Suzie Vinnick, Richard Bell, Chris Murphy, Teddy Leonard, Donnie Walsh all feature amongst the 33 guest). "We’ll Be Allright” seems truly autobiographical, served up with an upbeat Louisiana twist. Of the 13 tracks, Kendall has authored or co-authored 9 of them — songwriting being an unexpected strength — and smart tracks like "Worn In” prove the veteran player to be only "weathered, not weary.” The lazy, laidback delivery is the perfect fit with great performances from Brian Fraser (piano) Teddy Leonard (guitar) and Donnie Walsh (harp). Yet the best tracks include the ska-soaked take on Kendall’s own "Don’t Be Sad” with its wall of percussion (Jim Casson) and strong backing vocals (Suzie Vinnick), and the uptown, sophisticated jazz track, "Bluesona Slonite,” which sizzles under the slick keyboards of Michael Fonfara and smooth tenor sax of Chris Murphy — while showcasing some of Kendall’s best bass on record. Kendall might admit he’s not the strongest singer on the block, but make no mistake, this is an album that’s all about heart and there’s no denying the emotion that openly spills all over both Dusty & Pearl. (Independent)