What is it about Fort Worth?  The musicians born there seem to have a kind of magic bond to the place – they may travel the world and make their name half way across the globe, but they never forget where they have come from, and always come home.  Maybe that’s because Cowtown stays in your heart and soul.  No matter how big it gets, it always feels like a friendly “town” instead of a cold “city”.  That vibe is in The Rhythmators and their new release “Beyond The Blues.”

 Michael J. Dohoney (drums, lead vocals) and Mike Stockton (bass, synthesizers) Lewis Stephens (Keys) and Chris Clifton (guitar) are Fort Worth natives who first came together as sidemen playing for Delbert McClinton. Afterwards, they formed their own band and played together for over two years, until national acts lured each away.  They ended up scattered over the country – Clifton in North Carolina, Dohoney in Los Angeles and Stockton in New Orleans, but stayed in touch over the years. And now, with the release of “Beyond The Blues” they have come full circle, once again a band with the addition of Paul Byrd on guitar and vocals.

The life of a traveling musician may seem glamorous to the outsider, but any seasoned pro can tell you the good life ain’t always so good.  You don’t get paid for those few hours you spend on stage – you’d do that for free. What you get paid for is the other twenty or so you spend daily getting there.  The Rhythmators know that well, and they’ve put that feeling into this CD.  There is a melancholy feel to it – deeply personal and introspective lyrics interspersed with soul stirring melodies.  This is not a bad thing, because this is what life and the blues are about, and despite the title, there are plenty of blues to be found on “Beyond the Blues.”  But there is more – R&B, soul, rock and even tinges of gospel. 

That’s another thing about those Fort Worth guys.  They’re not afraid to throw everything into the pot and let it simmer. They don’t need some Yankee purist telling them what’s what. They KNOW the blues. Stockton kicks in some funky bass lines, Clifton adds some beautiful, melodic guitar and Dohoney’s grooving yet precise percussion skills are surpassed only by his vocals.  Like a favorite old pair of boots, there is a warm, fully broken in feel to them.  Not the stereotypical cigarette and whiskey thing. More like a played till 2 am and still up at 5 am thinking about life quality.  Mellow and rich, it wraps around the lyrics and manages to embrace every emotion with depth and sincerity.

Which is excellent, because the twelve tunes on the disc are all originals, and worthy of  those vocals and all the life experience these guys bring to them.  And while the overall mood of the CD is pensive, not everything is mellow. In this mode, “Past The Storm” and “I Will Turn To You” are brooding and gentle, but “Nothing To Lose” rocks with a burning intensity and groove. The CD wraps up with the title track “Beyond The Blues”, acknowledging the lessons learned and the necessity of using that information to move on.

These guys know life’s tribulations, but they know its joys too. One of those joys is obviously performing together again. The spirit of friendship and camaraderie is further enhanced by the other musicians joining them: Red Young (piano), John Street (organ), Louis Stephens (Hammond B3) and Bill Samuels (sax) – each bringing their own accomplished style to the tunes they contribute to.  

But don’t take my word for it.  Put on this CD, join The Rhythmators and go “Beyond The Blues.”  If you’re in the mood for some of what Texas does best, it’s a trip into the Lone Star State well worth taking.

- Blue Lisa