SOUNDS OF BLUE: The Bo-Keys “Heartaches by the Number” By BOB PUTIGNANO

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“Heartaches by the Number”


Bob Putignano is Music Editor of the Yonkers Tribune

Bob Putignano is Music Editor of the Yonkers Tribune

The Bo-Keys are a southern soul band with deep roots from Memphis, Tennessee. They were formed around house band musicians who had ties to historic American recording labels: Stax, and Hi-Records. This latest recording from the Bo-Keys contains a heavy dose of country tunes:

Side One

(1) “Heartaches By The Number” (Harlan Howard) *
(2) “Set Me Free” (Claude “Curly” Putman and Marvin Walters)*
(3) “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (Hank Williams)*
(4) “The Longer You Wait” (Merle Haggard)*
(5) “I Threw It All Away” (Bob Dylan)

Side Two

(6) “Learned My Lesson in Love” (Scott Bomar/Marc Franklin/Howard Grimes/Percy Wiggins)
(7) “Don’t Take Her (She’s All I Got)” (Jerry Williams/Swamp Dogg and Gary US Bonds)*
(8) “I Hope You Find What You’re Looking For” (Scott Bomar)
(9) “Wasted Days And Wasted Nights” (Freddy Fender)*


Note the asterisked songs*:

Seven of the (*) ten songs are mostly well-known covers of country songs written by country artists/songwriters. An unusual musical concept that works.  The opening (Side One) title track a tune written by Harlan Howard in 1959. “Heartaches by the Number” quickly became a country standard recorded by contemporaries: Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens, and was given later-day treatment by Dwight Yoakam. The lyrics are handled by Don Bryant’s vocal. Bryant is a seventy-four year old Memphis veteran (who under the tutelage of Willie Mitchell) was a staff songwriter for Hi Records, Bryant also married Ann Peebles, and co-wrote classics like “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” and “99 Pounds.” This swampy cover is a Bluesy looping song that also utilizes tight horn charts and a tasty and succinct guitar solo by Joe Restivo. “Set Me Free” was co-authored by the Nashville based Curly Putman who had a major hit “Green, Green Grass of Home” covered my many. “Set Me Free” is a neat ballad that features Bo-Keys vocalist Percy Wiggins with female background vocalists Reba Russell and Susan Marshall, and horns. It might take a while for you to recognize Hank Williams’ (who needs no introductions) and it’s a smart arrangement that’s punctuated by the horns and Wiggins’ lead vocals. The Country parade continues with another man who needs no introductions (Merle Haggard’s) “The Longer You Wait” uses Eric Lewis’ pedal steel that not only does he sound soulful – he’s funky too, but it’s here that Wiggins limited vocal range becomes one-dimensional and wearing. Side one closes with Dylan’s “I Threw It All Away” thematically not surprising from his 1969 “Nashville Skyline” album, this version won’t impress but makes for a nice way to close out side one.

Side Two opens with “Learned My Lesson in Love” (co-authored by most of the Bo-Keys,) is a tight soulful and righteous funk tune – a departure from any songs from side one, it feels good as the band slides into a potent groove that seems more familiar and comfortable to everyone in the band. “Don’t Take Her (She’s All I Got)” co-authored by Jerry Williams Jr. (better known as Swamp Dogg,) and Gary “US” Bonds was the 1972 nominee for the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year and was a big hit for Johnny Paycheck. This cover successfully segues well with “Learned My Lesson in Love” with its strutting soulful glide and uptown style. Bo-Keys producer and bass player Scott Bomar contributes on his singular (no shared credits) composition “I Hope You Find What You’re Looking For” has a Tex-Mex feel that really didn’t work for me. The album rights itself with Freddy Fender’s “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” a country-blues ballad from 1959, though in 1975 Fender re-recorded “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” topping Billboard’s Country Charts and was certified gold with one million copies sold. This version holds sway; it’s short, sweet and to the point. Country Music Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grammy winning pianist: Floyd Cramer (one of the architects of the Nashville Sound) “Last Date” tune (was inducted into Grammy Hall of Fame) closes the album instrumentally with tasteful guitar work from Restivo’s fret-board that is beautifully decorated by the entire band and yes those horns. It’s a great way to closeout this interesting recording. Sort of like end-credits music from a movie soundtrack that was used in memorable flick.

The side one and side two concept is clever, seemingly representing vinyl LP’s retro days. My copy is recorded on one CD; so let’s play along, though there is a vinyl release version too. But make no mistake this album is anything but country soul music, besides I’ve never heard or recall of such a genre pairing; until now. But remove the genre identifiers and lay back and enjoy the musical merge. In summary; for the most part – I enjoyed “Heartaches by the Numbers,” and suspect you will too. Look for this recording to make its way onto many critics’ best-of recordings for 2016.

Bob Putignano continues a 17 plus years pivotal journey on the air in the New York metropolitan area with his Sounds of Blue radio show – 2016’s second most pledged to radio program.

Previously a contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, currently the Music Editor for the Yonkers Tribune and Bob is also the 2003 recipient of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award (given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis) for his achievements in radio broadcasting.


Direct eMail to Bob Putignano at

eHeziSOUNDS OF BLUE: The Bo-Keys “Heartaches by the Number” By BOB PUTIGNANO

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