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CD Review: Jimmy Carpenter's Toiling in Obscurity 

The Deal: Growing up in Greensboro, Jimmy Carpenter was a frequent visitor to the Double Door Inn, hitting the road playing sax with the Alkaphonics, Charlie Pastorfield and the Believers, Tinsley Ellis, Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers. Now living in New Orleans, the saxophonist currently divides his time between Walter Wolfman Washington and Eric Lindell.

The Good: With the Afro-Cuban-flavored original "Screeching Halt," Carpenter's first solo record reveals a side of the sideman previously hidden in his supporting roles. Carpenter's covers are just as impressive. Backed by a boiling second line, he challenges Dr. John to a fonk-off on his take on Rebennack's "Back By the River." His smooth treatment of the James Brown classic "Prisoner Of Love" takes it out of Maceo territory and back to its big-band origins. The highlight of the disc is Carpenter's take on the Stones' "Shine A Light." Carpenter takes the tune to church while keeping the dirty back alley vibe alive. His vocals are impressive as well, a serious challenge to Jagger's ragged mumbles with an added bonus – you can understand the lyrics.

The Bad: That it took him half his life to get out his first effort. He's impressive as a sideman, but this side needs more exposure.

The Verdict: Fans of King Curtis will enjoy Carpenter's ballsy tenor swagger, but when the occasion calls for it, he's as smooth as David "Fathead" Newman. This is a great record, and an impressive debut. He'll be at the Double Door again on Feb. 12.

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