Zac HarmonThis album – the first Christian one I’ve come across with a song about Viagra - mixes soul, blues, funk and rock. It usually gets it right.

Label: Urban Eagle L.L.C.
Time: 11 Tracks / 55 minutes

Harmon has made a long journey in his career and traces of every stage are dotted around this release. Since he won the band category of The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge in 2004, he has been winning both awards and acclaim for his work, particularly with blues guitar. By 2007 he was voted onto the board of The Blues Foundation as a director.

Earlier in his career, he was writing songs for the O’Jays, Alexander O’Neal and Black Uhuru and this release shows the range of what he can do.

Just over half of this disc is blues with the lightness of Eric Bibb and more soulful funkiness than Robert Cray. His songs – such as the Viagra song “Blue Pill Thrill” – are often undergirded by a body-pushing funky rhythm section given fire by a wah-wah bass or clavinet-like synth. “Country Boy” has an insistent riff, while “Drowning in Hollywood” sounds identical to the blues classic “The Hunter” as made famous by Free, but with the lyrics changed. Harmon’s guitar licks and solos are liberally dotted around the collection.

The switch from “Running From the Devil” to “Grandmother’s Prayer” is like changing radio stations as the blues gives way to honey-voiced soul. The verse changes take me back to ‘70’s chart soul. Drummer Cedric Goodman and keyboards player Corey Lacey speak their responses to the words they have just heard, adding, “Listen to this, listen to this” spoken segues before swapping vocal duties. The track sounds highly authentic as it tells of how they had grandmothers praying for their protection.

“Talk to Me” features the same soul at the start, where Harmon wants his girlfirend to talk about their relationship, as both of them have been running around with others and he wants them to work things out. But halfway through, guitar starts to overlay the soul as it does in the Isley Brothers’ “Summer Breeze.”

When the lightweight “I’d Rather Be With You” appears, it is like the radio button has been pressed again, as the only link that this thin reggae piece has to the rest of the disc is Harmon’s tenor and the sweet harmonies behind it.

The disc closes with a return to blues, the uninspiring verse of “Wounded” giving way to a powerfully emotional chorus shared with Susann Carwell. The whole thing never quite resolves, leaving the listener with the give-me-more feeling that develops during Hendrix’s “Little Wing.”

Music is Medicine has a strong spiritual thread, both in the gospel-soul of “Grandmother’s Prayer” and the whole point of the harder, riffy “Running from the Devil,” in which he sings, “I’m just trying to keep up with the Lord.” In “The Healer,”  he sings, “This gift of music, you have to understand, sent down by God for healing of the land… I’m a healer, anointed by my Father’s hand.”

How does the mix of styles work? Largely, they blend well, bringing a welcome variety. “I’d Rather Be With You” is the only weak spot, because it is both feeble and out of place. The rest of this will be highly satisfying for those whose taste lies within the parameters of Robert Cray, The Stylistics, Jeff Healey and Sweet Comfort Band.

Derek Walker

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