By MIKE CHAIKEN
The energy crackles out of the speakers when you cue up Foghat’s latest album, “Under the Influence.”
One of the reasons for the energy boost, explained the band’s original and continuing drummer Roger Earl, is the roster of special guests they were able to pull in to supplement the core line of Craig MacGregor, Bryan Bassett, and Charlie Huhn
For instance, Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown sat in for some tracks. Blues musician Dana Fuchs sang on a few tracks. Buddy Guy vocalist Scott Holt stepped up to the microphone for some lead vocals. And the band’s former bassist, Nick Jameson, sat in on a remake of “Slow Ride,” which closes out the album.
Kim Simmonds is no stranger to Foghat or Earl. Simmonds is the erstwhile leader of the band Savoy Brown, which served as the launching pad for the early Foghat. And a young Roger Earl was among the musicians who came through that venerable British blues rock outfit.
Playing with Simmonds on “Under the Influence” was “fantastic,” said Roger.
Foghat and Savoy Brown have played shows together over the years. But the machinery for this guest stint on Foghat’s latest album was put into motion when the two bands performed on a rock and roll cruise with Savoy Brown, said Roger.
During Foghat’s show , Simmonds stepped out on stage to play “Slow Ride” and “Sweet Home Chicago.” And Roger stepped on stage to play with Savoy Brown for some tracks.
Afterward, Roger said he asked Simmonds if he would like to play on what would become Foghat’s next album. His manager and Foghat’s manager had some discussions and the musical connection came to fruition.
“He’s a fantastic guitar player,” said Roger, who added Foghat’s vocalist Charlie Huhn is a big fan of Simmonds. “Everyone had a blast.”
The paths of Foghat and Dana Fuchs first crossed in Canada at a blues festival, said Roger. Foghat got there in the late afternoon. But the entire event was running late because the stage manager didn’t take control of the situation earlier in the day, explained Roger. By the time, Foghat—the headliners—could play, they had only 30 minutes before the curfew for the festival. Unfortunately, Dana was on stage and only 20 minutes into her set. Foghat had to boot her off stage before she was finished to give the fans what they paid for.
Some artists might have gotten miffed about having to cut their show short, said Roger. But he said Dana was really cool about the situation. She understood what was going on. “She’s a consummate professional and an incredible vocalist.”
When it was time to record “Under the Influence,” Roger said Foghat decided to pull in Dana to add some vocals on “Honey Do List” and “Heard It Through the Grapevine.”
Roger said Foghat’s producer on “Under the Influence,” Tom Hambridge also had a good deal with the energy level in the recordings.
“I love working with Tom,” said Roger. “He’s a great musician and a great songwriter.”
Essentially said Roger, a produceris like a fifth member of the band. Since the producer comes in specifically for a project, they also offer some fresh blood into the proceedings.
The genesis of the album “Under the Influence” goes back about three years ago, said Roger. The band was in Florida in January and February rehearsing and getting in some songwriting.
“We were hanging around, talking about influences and what kind of music we listened to,” said Roger.
And during this discussion, said Roger, his manager offered up a suggestion for an album title.
“Under the Influence.”
And from there the songwriting flowed.
“It’s been a long time in the making,” said Roger of the new material. “But it’s worthwhile.”
The record also fits nicely with the sound of the band’s considerable catalogue. Roger said three songs from “Under the Influence” already have joined the set list. Normally new tracks become bathroom breaks for fans waiting to hear the classic tracks. But fans have been “fantastic” about digging the new songs.
The record also marks the return of Foghat to the Billboard charts after an absence since 1983, one of the dwindling number of rock acts left on the best-seller chart.
Even though he’s in his 70s, Roger said he has no intention of laying down the flag of rock and roll and going “gently into the good night.”
“I love to play with this band and these musicians,” said Roger. Plus, he said, “We’re really good friends.” “Rock and roll is in my blood,” said Roger.
Foghat plays the Mohegan Sun Wolf Den in Uncasville on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. The show is free.
For more information, go to MoheganSun.com or Foghat.com