Kris Lager Band: Love Songs & Life Lines.

Kris Lager Band: Love Songs & Life Lines.

“These guys are the real deal” – Tab Benoit.

Americana Soul. It’s fast becoming a thing, and Kris Lager and his band give us a sumptuous helping of it in this fourteen song feast.

Lager does a fine job throughout with his laid back, soulful but scratchy vocals, while the band performs admirably on arrangements that are never less than satisfying. The saxophone contributions along the way are very cool and add to the soulful feel of things. “I wanna lift up your spirits through song and dance,” says Lager and the album doesn’t fail to deliver on this score. The collection of songs here, all written by Lager are hugely enjoyable and life-affirming. The liner notes contain a little contribution by Lager explaining the background to the songs but even without these you get a familiar feeling of family, love, loss as you listen.

The album kicks off with an instrumental, Aurora Borealis, showcasing Lager’s guitar chops, then starts proper with the quietly funky The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants. We’re in proper Americana territory next with Sweet Magnolia, with its slide guitar work and Lager’s world weary vocals reminding me of Ryan Bingham. By the time we’re at San Francisco Bound, we’re on an Americana road trip – “goin’ down that windin’ road…with the window down,” Great stuff.

You and I is pure Muscle Shoals and great fun with some fine saxophone work to complement Lager’s accomplished vocals. I’m Still Here and I Ain’t Lettin’ Go is one of those songs that is so soulful you feel it is reaching right inside you, the mournful saxophone piercing you and Lager’s voice grabbing your insides, as quietly powerful as a gospel preacher’s final appeal.

That’s What Love Is is as thoughtful a love song as you’ll hear – “and when you give and give, even after you thought you done give everything you had to give…putting them first, and yourself second, that’s what love is.” Lager bookends the album with another guitar instrumental, Journey’s Sonata, bringing the album to a nice acoustic conclusion.

This excellent collection of love songs and other life-affirming tunes was mixed by Grammy award winning produced, Jim Gaines (who has worked with Santana, Van Morrison and Stevie Ray Vaughan. You’ll enjoy it first time round, but it’s an album that you’ll go back to appreciate in new ways again and again.