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Fresh Biscuits! Weekly CD Reviews – January 16, 2015

It’s time again for our weekly CD reviews. This is our first installment of 2015. I took a little break over the holidays but now we’re back! This week I’m taking a look at a pair of albums that evaded our pages last year and a brand new disc out just this week.

A lot of CDs come in the mail and the unfortunate reality is the bigger names get preference. I try to cover as much ground as possible though, so I make a pile of interesting stuff for those times I can include something off the beaten path. I make a lot of these decisions based on the covers. Album covers are important, ladies and gents. I’ll go off on a tangent about that soon enough in the reviews below but if your cover is eye-catching that will give you the edge almost every time, whether it’s in a store, a web site, or a merch table at a festival. Remember that next time your manager has your band standing next to a tree in their back yard. Anyway…

Without further adieu, I present Terry Quiett Band, Brent Johnson, and Josh Hoyer And The Shadowboxers

 

TerryQuiettBandTakingSidesTerry Quiett Band

Taking Sides

Lucky Bag Records

Released on March 25, 2014

 

I didn’t know anything about Terry Quiett Band but I was intrigued by the cover of their 2014 album Taking Sides when I came across it in a stack of discs I ran out of time for last year. Make no mistake: covers are an important part of the package. Since I am a reviewer, there’s a higher chance than usual that I’ll give it a listen no matter what. Still, there are hundreds of Blues releases each year, often from artists you’ve never heard of, even if, like the Terry Quiett Band they’ve had a long career already. The front cover of Taking Sides melds the big sky heartland and resonator guitar with the luminous big city skyline and a three pick-up electric guitar. The guitars meet in the middle implying this band is proudly fusing elements of the blues into a hybrid. Your imagination fills in the details until you plop the disc in your player and you’re greeted by the raspy electrified resonator as Quiett peels off riff after riff. It’s exactly as advertised and it’s glorious. But maybe I would have missed this one if the cover was a band shot, up against a pick-up truck in a parking lot somewhere. The cover brings you in; it’s a hook almost as important as the hooks in the music. Personally I’m sick of boring blues album covers, but when you see a cover like this you know the band is serious and they want to make a statement. Hopefully you’ll like the statement, but at least they were bold enough to go for it and try to catch your eye in the midst of a sea of unknown entities releasing CDs with nothing more than their picture and generic Arial font lettering.

Thankfully, the music within meets the expectations set by the cover. The album opens with slide on steel as the resonator is caught in a rollin’ and tumblin’ groove that just won’t stop. Immediately you realized the promise of the cover is being realized. The track has the frantic energy of a city and the tone center of Grandma’s back porch. “Cut The Rope” is sinister psychedelic blues. If you’re going to play slide through a wah-wah pedal I’ll probably follow you like a puppy dog chasing down bacon. The accelerated rave-up toward the end will leave you howling for more.

The back cover makes a clear distinction between Side A and Side B, as if this were a record. In many ways, the tunes marked for Side B represent another side of the band’s style. It starts off with a smoldering minor key blues that burns the whole damned barn down by the time it’s over. Much of Side B brings the tempo down, and gives the band a chance to shine on some extended cuts that are in many ways more intense than the hard driving Side A. The two sides provide an additional surprise by not being what you might expect. I admit I was thinking I’d be hearing acoustic driven music on Side B after the rampaging first half. I was pleasantly surprised. Whether it’s Side A or B, the songs are superbly crafted and arranged. Mississippi Hal Reed blows a mean harp on “Come The Morning” and the horns on “Gimme Some” deliver knock out blows.

Terry Quiett is an evocative singer and a Hell of a guitar player whether he’s playing standard or slide. Sometimes it seems like everybody’s playing slide guitar these days, like it was just discovered and it has to be tried. The results are good, bad, and often ugly. Slide guitar playing requires your attention. Proper intonation is the key, but you have to dampen the strings, limit the noise, and for the love of Elmore James find a new lick to play. Terry Quiett sounds like he has put in the time and effort. He plays some borrowed lines and who can blame him. Some classic slide riffs are so fun to play, you just have to. But he incorporates all kinds of slide licks into his songs; sometimes for accent, sometimes to make a full statement. His hands are steady. He’s probably at a point where he doesn’t think about it much which allows the music to flow from within. The feel of this album and his playing makes all the difference. The feel is honest. This band brings out all sides and somewhere in the middle is the Truth, which is this: Taking Sides gathers inspiration from all sides of the blues and makes up one terrific album.

 

BrentJohnsonSetTheWorldOnFireBrent Johnson

Set The World On Fire

Justin Time Records

Released on April 8, 2014

 

Brent Johnson was a guitar prodigy as a child. When New Orleans’ legendary “Braille Blues Daddy” Bryan Lee heard Brent’s playing, Lee invited him into his Blues Power Band. With Lee’s band, Brent has recorded and toured the globe for the last ten years. Between tours with Bryan Lee, Brent hit the road with John Perkins on drums and Bill Blok on bass. They played Brent’s original compositions of which he is very proud. The group was met with an enthusiastic response from crowds. Bolstered by the appreciation of the fans, the band decided to go into the recording studio. Together, with Wayne Lohr on keyboards and a few special guests like Sonny Landreth and Alvin Youngblood Hart, they put together the blazing new record, Set The World On Fire.

Johnson is committed to writing his own songs which stems from a long-time love of guitarist/singer bandleaders. Johnson has said his favorite music is “raw, honest and dirty.” This attitude surely informs the songs he writes and the few covers he chose for the album. The production captures a live band feel with earthy vintage tones and all the jagged edges sticking out daring you   Lyrically, he does not use elaborate metaphors. He prefers simple and direct such as “Don’t buy a ticket if you don’t want to take a ride.”

Brent Johnson’s guitar playing is lyrical. He sings, but his guitar is another voice for him and the two work together like Siamese twins line cooking at the local diner. From his tones to his notes, he finds the right combination of flavors for every song. Not every song is raw and dirty however, but they all come off as honest. Unfortunately you can hear when a band is going through the motions. Thankfully that does not occur with Brent and his band. Even the guests come to play their best. Alvin Youngblood Hart trades blows with Johnson like Frank Costanza on Festivus, and Sonny Landreth lights up “Long Way Back To New Orleans” with his inimitable slide guitar sound and style. Brent Johnson is a fine slide player too and he revs it up like a ’57 Big Block Chevy on John Lee Hooker’s “Meet Me In The Bottom.”

The record’s tour de force is a grinding 13 minute workout on “As The Years Go Passing By.” This emotional roller coaster should probably be accompanied by Jack Daniels and Prozac. It is an impassioned performance that will bring guitar worshipers to the album. However, based on Johnson’s passion for original material I have to wonder why he didn’t write a minor key Blues of his own for this showcase. Maybe it just felt right to do it this way. It sure sounds right. Actually, all of Set The World On Fire sounds right. It sounds like a band of brothers laying down music they love. It is free of pretense and schtick. It aims at the core of the Blues ideology of lightening your load through music. Brent Johnson’s debut album will help you. Hucklebuck your way out to the store and get one.

 

JoshHoyerLivingByTheMinuteJosh Hoyer And The Shadowboxers

Living By The Minute

Silver Street

Released on January 13, 2015

 

Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers is an up and coming Soul/R&B/Funk band from Lincoln, NE. Successes in their first two years of playing include being nominated for Blues Blast Awards Debut of the Year, entering the top ten of RMR Charts for Soul AND R&B for over 30 weeks, being named the 2013 Omaha Entertainment Winner for Soul Artist of the Year, and a nomination for Artist of the Year for 2014. The band formed in late 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a talent buyer and bartender at the world-famous ZOO Bar for the last ten years or so, bandleader Hoyer has witnessed and joined several of the top roots and blues artists touring the country. As a bandleader he has won numerous local music awards and his current band, The Shadowboxers, includes some of the areas most revered and accomplished musicians. The Midwest has become fertile ground for talented young blues and roots players over the last decade. Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers continue the trend with their new album Living By The Minute.

I don’t know how, but Hoyer, a white guy from Nebraska, sounds like a black guy from Philly. The band has a soul sound like the finest MFSB mixed with New York City Funk, and Memphis Rhythm & Blues. The backing vocals from Hanna Bendler, Kim Moser, and Megan Spain are beautiful. Their harmonies are rich yet sparse and can cut you to the core. They have a definite Sixties tone to their voices, reminiscent of the Delfonics and other groups of the era. Bassist Josh Bargar seems like the driving force in many of the songs. His bass playing blurs the line between percussion and melody. He plays lead bass but it’s never over-powering. Even in a slow tune like the title track “Living By The Minute” Bargar’s bass lines give the song a little punchiness that if provided by drums would be too much. All the songs on the disc are expertly arranged and mixed. In “Misfit Children” the bass again centers the song while the horns and guitars bring the funk. Hoyer’s organ playing, especially his Hammond B2 – yes B2 – is tremendous. He weaves his lines in between the rhythm section and lays chords on top like gravy.

On “Over The City” Hoyer’s voice sounds like John Bell from Widespread Panic. In my mind I could hear Panic covering this tune. “Let it Out” does what it says. The first 20 minutes of the record are fairly mellow, mid-tempo R&B songs but this one rocks out a little with a fast pace, stop-time rhythm changes, hot guitar solos, and Hoyer belting it out with help from the energetic backup vocalists. The disc closes with three up-tempo tunes. I don’t know if “11:11 333” is some oddball Numerology reference or what, but the damned song is funky. I caught myself repeating the numbers like a babbling fool along with Hoyer as he sang. “Blood And Bone” is another showcase for Bendler, Moser, and Spain, and “Don’t Turn Away” brings it to a close with all the traits that make this band special – percolating bass, swirling organ, funky beats, swooping horns, dynamic songwriting, and those amazing voices. You might as well put this album on repeat; don’t turn away!

About midway through my second listen of this disc I realized I was completely drawn in, which surprised me because the first time it wasn’t doing much for me. Yes, first impressions are important but Living By The Minute reminded me of the importance of recorded music. It is there to explore, experience, and examine. Sometimes you need to live with it a few times before you truly get it, and when you do it is very much worth the effort and can make all the difference in your outlook in general. Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers have made one of those records that reveal more of itself with each listen. This quality makes it a more significant achievement and means this band is on the right track. Give Josh Hoyer And The Shadowboxers and their new album Living By The Minute all the time they deserve.

Fresh Biscuits! New CD Reviews

When I started this weekly review feature I thought I’d be able to rein in my ramblings and turn out five short reviews each week. I was way off. I’d rather be thorough and give the work of the artists the time it deserves. So, some weeks we might have five, some weeks less. This week we have four. I hope you enjoy them and find something interesting for your ears.

AlteredFiveBluesBandCryinMercyAltered Five Blues Band

Cryin’ Mercy

Omnivibe Records

Release Date: October 28, 2014

The Alternate Five Blues Band formed in 2002 and quickly gained a reputation as a powerhouse live band from Milwaukee to Minnesota and all around the Midwest. Their 2008 debut album focused on the band’s ability to re-arrange popular covers. Titled Bluesified, the album featured juke joint versions of songs like Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing” and The Romantics “What I Like About You.” Their 2012 release Gotta Earn It featured original material and received rave reviews. 2014 brings us their third record Cryin’ Mercy. The disc is produced my Tom Hambridge, the writing is mature, and the performance is white hot. Cryin’ Mercy is their best yet.

The music is tight but loose and the grooves are deeply in the pocket. The lyrical content avoids clichés and even when singling out modern excesses like Prada shoes and Coach purses, the sentiments are timeless. And you just have to smile at lyrics like this phrase from “Demon Woman” – “I bet an x-ray of your body shows your head has two horns!” In “I Got You” vocalist Jeff Taylor sings “I don’t need your trust but I’d like your fortune cookie.” I don’t know if that’s dirty, sexy, or dangerous. Maybe it’s all three.

Mark Solveson provides fat bass riffs, powering “Stay Outta My Business” and “Demon Woman” with low down rumbling force. Solveson’s inventive bass playing is compelling and is a breath of fresh air in the modern blues genre. “Demon Woman” has a taut riff that lands on a devilish sounding chord. Guitarist Jeff Schroedl’s playing burns like Hell fire and keyboardist Raymond Tevich puts a nefarious twist on some Brimstone fueled Gospel organ riffing. “I’m In Deep” is a swift shuffle with Raymond Tevich whipping up a Jimmy Smith style sermon. Jeff Schroedl is a guitarist’s guitarist. He plays for the song, but shows off his chops occasionally. He doesn’t over-play and chooses tones that match the tune. The MVP of Altered Five Blues Band is keyboardist Raymond Tevich. His playing and phrasing is tremendous and he uses a full range of keyboard timbre. He melds his influences into a greasy giblet gravy that makes everything better.

Vocalist Jeff Taylor is a powerful singer. Minor cracks in his otherwise smooth voice give it character and add poignancy to a song like “Find My Wings.” Taylor’s voice is just gruff enough to lend gravitas to his words. It makes it all real. This is Blues, people. We want imperfections. We want the real deal. Luckily Altered Five Blues Band gives us more than just the real deal. Their Maximum Groove Blues will have you Cryin’ Mercy for sure!

 

ChrisDuarteLucky13Chris Duarte Group

Lucky 13

Blues Bureau International

Release Date: October 14, 2014

Chris Duarte seemed to burst onto the music scene in 1994 but he was far from an overnight sensation. He’d been playing music in Austin, Texas for most of the 80’s. He’d been in a number of bands and even released an album in 1987 called Chris Duarte & The Bad Boys. After seemingly endless lineup and name changes with The Bad Boys, Chris put together the first Chris Duarte Band and since 1991 he hasn’t looked back. The new disc Lucky 13 on Blues Bureau International is indeed the thirteenth record from Chris Duarte Group. Whether it will be lucky or not is yet to be seen, but the band’s sound is fully realized and Chris seems to get better every year.

Early on, short-sighted critics dismissed Chris as a Stevie Ray clone. Over the years Chris has had to overcome this one-dimensional stigma but it has focused his musical vision. In the modern era of blues, guitar is king and kings of guitar influence almost everyone. From Albert, Freddie, and B.B. to Hendrix, Albert Collins, and Johnny Winter, players of a certain age have similar influences. But it’s all about how you make them your own that counts. Chris Duarte plays big bad Texas blues. The shuffles strut with pride, the minor blues dig deep in the Texas sand, and his licks are as spicy and smoky as Lockheart barbecue.

“You Know You’re Wrong” fades in to start the album, building from a quiet, gentle lead-in blowing up into an alternating high-low riff that will spin your head. Chris’ rhythm playing is tighter than an oil baron’s purse strings. One song into the disc and you know it’s going to be a fun listen. “Angry Man” is a rockin’ shuffle tune with some stop time maneuvers that’ll give you whiplash. The infectious chorus will make this one a great live song. Chris is in great voice too, and he fits about six minutes of guitar notes into this five minute romp. Damn, that man can play!

For all the Big Texan fireworks, Chris Duarte also has serious jazz chops. From his chord voicing to his lead phrasing, Chris demonstrates a deep connection with guys like Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, and Charlie Christian. On “Who Loves You” Chris blurs the lines between Jazz and Blues for a fun, upbeat tune that will have you smiling while you shake your head at his guitar mastery. “Let It Go” is a slow minor key blues a la “Tin Pan Alley” and it too spends time in Jazz territory. There’s a slight echo to Chris’ tone on “Let It Go” that gives it a damp, late night alley feel. Chris plays delicate fluid lines whose attainment should be the desire of any serious guitar player.

There are fourteen songs on Lucky 13 and they range from full-on rock to smoky jazz. He has some sonic fun with “Not Chasing It” and lyrical fun on “Ain’t Gonna Hurt No More” singing lines like “your Daddy wants to see me dead.” “Minefield Of My Mind” gets into Jazz Fusion territory. Not crappy 80’s jazz fusion either; we’re talking Mahavishnu Orchestra/RTF barnstorming. The disc closes with another ride into Jazzland. This time Chris and the band “Jump The Trane” for a twisting journey through the wilds of Texas Blues Be-Bop. It’s sick. You shouldn’t be allowed to end a record this way. It’s like kissing someone good night and then punching them in the face. I love it.

The record may be called Lucky 13 but Chris Duarte’s success has more to do with hard work, incredible talent, intense focus, and solid song writing than any mystical fates. Chris has put the time in. Now it’s your turn. Get yourself some Lucky 13.

 

NormanTaylorBlueSoulNorman Taylor

Blue Soul

Soul Stew Records

Release Date: February 3, 2014

Damn! Norman Taylor’s voice is smooth. I never heard of this guy until his new disc Blue Soul crossed my path. Acoustic Blues is not really my thing. I like to play it but listening to it throws me off. I don’t know why. I can appreciate the artistry; I just don’t want to hear it. We all have our shortcomings. Sometimes I hear some that hold my attention though. Norman Taylor has a deep, emotive voice that defies categorization. He sounds like a Soul Man, a Preacher, and a Blues Belter. His guitar playing is exquisite too. The combination held my ear and sent me to the worldwide web to learn more about Mr. Taylor. I didn’t feel too bad about my ignorance once I found that even the almighty Google knows next to nothing about this excellent musician.

I did learn that “Norman Taylor is a Singer/Songwriter/Acoustic Blues performer from the South Jersey/Philadelphia area. His style is entrenched in the country blues of people like Robert Johnson and Skip James, and contemporary acoustic blues men like Keb’ Mo’, Eric Bibb and Guy Davis.” It’s not much but it is spot on, although I would put him more in the Guy Davis camp.

He may be from the greater Philadelphia area but he takes us on a road trip to Memphis on disc opener “100 Miles From Memphis.” He name drops all the hot spots he’s dreaming of to keep his mind off the last 100 miles. Taylor’s finger picking, combined with accompanists Steve Goldstien on guitar and Roycee Martin’s rumbling bass give the song a rotary feel like wheels on asphalt spinning toward the Mississippi Bridge. As he sang about ribs at the Rendezvous and breakfast at the Blue Plate I got pretty damned hungry by the time the song was over. Road trip!

The disc features two versions of “Betrayed Blues.” The first is a slow, sad acoustic ballad and the second, which closes the disc, is the only full band electric song on the album. It’s also my favorite. The tune is rearranged into a funky stuttering shuffle with stinging lead guitar and pulsating bass. Acoustic guitarists often chose different phrases on electric guitar than those who play electric most of the time. The acoustic players regularly have to choose notes and combinations that will fill spaces. They use more chord shapes than scales. They think outside the Blues Box, so to speak. It makes it really interesting when they switch to electric. Taylor and Goldstien play off each other with both playing tasty leads and the rhythm work is elegantly brilliant. This is an interesting way to close an acoustic record but it effectively showcases the range of Norman Taylor and his cohorts including drummer Tom Callan who provides the funk.

Altogether, Blue Soul is worthy of your attention. To me, it seems perfect for late night listening, or while sipping a cold drink and sitting on the porch on a warm summer’s day. Norman Taylor’s rich voice will draw you in and focus your attention. All your troubles will fall away for a while and all will be right with the world.

 

MagnusBergCutMeLooseMagnus Berg

Cut Me Loose

Screen Door Records

Release Date: November 11, 2014

18 year old Norwegian Magnus Berg received his first guitar at the age of seven. The instrument was built by his grandfather and set young Magnus on his musical path. Initially infatuated with Angus young, Magnus eventually developed an interest in the roots of Angus’ playing and started moving backward in time toward the Blues. He found some favorites of his own like B.B King, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Otis Rush and Jimmy Reed. Berg’s family spent time in Florida each year and during one stay in late 2012 he caught the ear of singer/songwriter Kirsten Thien during a sit-in with Mike Zito. Thien and Berg became songwriting collaborators and she eventually brought him into her live band. Together they have toured together in the USA, Norway, France, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands giving young Mr. Berg a trial by fire on stages around the world. Their relationship also led to Berg’s signing with Thien’s Screen Door Records which has just released Magnus Berg’s debut album, Cut Me Loose.

Aside from the tough, gritty riffing on the opener “Cut Me Loose” the most noticeable aspect of the music is Magnus Berg’s voice. 18 years old or otherwise, Magnus has a perfect voice for blues. His phrasing is developed well beyond his years and there is no hint of a teenager’s under-developed voice and range. His love of Muddy Waters is apparent from the first notes of “One Way To Please You.” Stylistically it owes as much to Nashville as it does to Chicago, but the harp is all Little Walter and they definitely have their mojo working on the vibe. Later in the record they turn “Hoochie Coochie Man” on its ear by removing the signature riff. They replaced with an equally authentic and rustic sounding arrangement and Berg’s Telecaster slide work is refreshingly simplistic and organic. “When You Leave Me” is a lonesome dirge with killer harmonica playing from Bjørn Tore “Daffy” Larsen. The whole band is solid and plays great together. Beyond “Daffy” and Magnus there are Håvard Sunde on drums and Roy Oscar Pettersen on bass. The quartet has the feel of a true band and not just wunderkind plus back up musicians. The interplay is tight and intuitive, and everyone gets a chance to shine.

The maturity level is high on Cut Me Loose. It doesn’t feel like a debut record and Magnus doesn’t seem like a teenager. I hate to focus on his age but it could be a sticking point for a lot of people, including me. I think it’s great that young people are interested in Blues and I strongly encourage it, but teens as bandleaders often fall short. In this case, Magnus Berg delivers in a big way. So far, he seems like the total package. He writes good songs, comes up with credible re-arrangements of classics, sings well beyond his age, and is confident enough to be part of the band. It will be great to see him grow as an artist and I bet he’ll have one Hell of a voice ten years from now. It’s way too soon to cut him loose, he’s got a lot of miles to go and I suggest you get on the train sooner than later.

Throwback Thursday – The Doors With Albert King CD Review

AlbertKingJimMorrisonI’ve been in an Albert King mood recently and even went so far as to re-string a guitar upside down, tune it to E minor and attempt to play it. Yeah, attempt. It’s not as easy as it sounds. So when I was looking through old stuff to post for Throwback Thursday I came across this CD review from 2010 for The Doors Live In Vancouver with the man himself, Mr. Albert King.

Let’s fire up the Wayback (WABAC) machine and revisit those heady days of 2010 and 1970 when King Albert held court with Messrs Densmore, Krieger, Manzarek, and Mojo Risin’…

…This year fans of The Doors and blues fans alike will have something extra for which to be thankful. On Tuesday, November 23, 2010 Rhino Records in conjunction with Bright Midnight Archives will be releasing an oft-bootlegged performance from June 6, 1970 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Doors Live In Vancouver 1970 presents a full recording of the band’s show from that evening which includes a four song jam with blues legend Albert King.

DoorsLiveInVancouver1970Although Albert was probably completely unfamiliar with their music, The Doors were no strangers to the blues. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek and singer Jim Morrison were avowed blues enthusiasts and many of their songs featured call & response style arrangements. The Doors music was an amalgamation of original American musical styles. Manzarek, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger were all fans of jazz music, particularly Miles Davis’ and John Coltrane’s bands. Ray grew up on the South Side of Chicago and was intimately familiar with the city’s greatest export: Muddy Waters. The Doors combined the improvisational aspects of jazz with tight arrangements of Chess recordings of the 50’s, added some California psychedelia and lyrics by the Poet Laureate of the Apocalypse to create their own inimitable sound.

Live in Vancouver 1970 finds these influences profusely swirling around the band as they created the music on stage, cradled comfortably in the eye of the storm. The discs capture the entire show, including five minutes of pre-show stage noise and tuning. The musical portion opens just like their previous album, Morrison Hotel, with one of the most recognizable stuttering blues riffs of all-time in “Roadhouse Blues.” The riff continues on for a several extra bars as Morrison escalates the crowd’s anticipation by delaying the opening lines. Is he out of it tonight? Is he going to sing it at all? This tour was on the heels of the infamous Miami incident and the band, particularly its mercurial lead singer, was considered dangerous and unpredictable. Morrison eases his grip on the audience ever so slightly as he sings the first line; from there it’s a wild ride through the doors of perception.

The fitting “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” segues into a blues staple in The Doors’ repertoire: “Back Door Man.” As Jim Morrison channels the immortal Howlin’ Wolf there is no doubt whatsoever that the little girls understand. This abbreviated yet blistering version stops almost imperceptibly before Robby Krieger starts churning out the riff of “Five To One.” The two songs meld perfectly like two Vulcans in an orgasmatron.

“When The Music’s Over” continues the all-out attack on the senses with lulls and crescendos of its hard-rock psychedelic soundscape. Manzarek and Krieger create sheets of sound so disquieting they would stupefy John Coltrane. When Morrison unleashes the banshee wail of “NOW!” the pair seems to create in unison its demonic musical equivalent. Jim Morrison may have been the mouth and face of The Doors but Ray, Robby and John Densmore provided the relentless soundtrack keeping it fresh and interesting even as Jim’s antics grew tiresome. Here, these musicians are at the top of their game, and thankfully Jim is also on his best behavior. Maybe it was the presence of the King.

Albert King joins the band on stage after “Love Me Two Times” and a short American music history lesson from Jim to the audience while the crew sets up Albert’s rig. The jam starts with “Little Red Rooster.” Robby Krieger plays slide while Albert sends flurries of notes into the ether. Albert and Robby are in the same channel because of the recording set-up; it was recorded by then tour manager Vince Treanor using two AKG-D1000E stage microphones and a Sony T630 reel-to-reel tape machine. Their tones are similar and Robby uses the slide to great effect as he imitates Albert’s deep bends and they go toe to toe for several bars of rousing head-cutting action.

At the beginning of “Rock Me”, Ray can be heard calling out chord changes. Even without rehearsals, the band and King play like they did this every weekend and twice on Tuesdays. Ray Manzarek recalls in the notes “What a funky night. Jim singing his ass off with a prod in the butt by a legendary old blues man.” Albert King brought out the best in all the musicians of The Doors. They closed the jam with an exhilarating rendition of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love.” Robby again adorns his finger with the slide and slithers through the verses like a desert sidewinder. Even with King sitting in, The Doors sound and style permeates this seminal rhythm and blues tune transforming it into cascading prismatic majesty. In the midst of it all, Albert King is there not merely riding on the storm but actively contributing to its power. The band and fans are duly impressed. A voice from the audience calls out “all right Albert!” and the disc ends with Jim acknowledging their guest.

Disc two has only two songs but at nearly 18 minutes each, “Light My Fire” and “The End” finish an already dynamic show in a grand manner. Jim’s spoken word piece “Petition The Lord With Prayer” starts off “Light My Fire” and so begins a dazzling display of The Doors improvisational abilities. Ray and Robby build their solos to fever pitch; Robby even throws in Coltrane quotes like “My Favorite Things.” Morrison takes a turn, improvising lyrics based around “St. James Infirmary” and fever. John Densmore’s agile percussion pulls everything together and pushes it to the edge of the precipice. His connection to the music is mesmerizing. It is intuitive and telepathic. He builds the dam and then crashes through it like the cresting Mississippi. Set the night on fire indeed.

With its minor key Eastern melodies and rolling tabla-style drums “The End” gives the crowd a few moments to rest and catch their breath before it too furiously builds to a glorious climax. It’s the end of disc two and the end of the show, but hopefully it is not the end of these archival recordings that have been released almost yearly for the past decade.

Although there are sonic limitations from the original tapes, the sound is clear and robust. The mics on stage capture banter between songs and calls from the audience, all adding richness to the atmosphere of the show. The recordings have been cleaned up and balanced by long-time Doors engineer and producer Bruce Botnik and this set is far superior to the bootlegs in circulation. It makes an excellent addition to any Doors fan’s collection and appeals to curious blues fan as well.

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Fresh Biscuits! Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers – Wide Open CD Review

JimmyThackeryWideOpenCDJimmy Thackery & The Drivers
Wide Open
Jamthack (CD Baby)

Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers are back again, this time with a full CD of all original music. Work began on Wide Open in 2012 at Tony’s Treasures in Cadiz, OH but apparently the band wasn’t happy with the results and only two songs were held over from those sessions. As much as I’d love to hear what they kept in the vault, Wide Open clearly demonstrates the care the band puts into the music. Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers have delivered a stellar, boundless record that captures the spirit of cross country road trip into the big unknown.

The disc starts off with a drum roll and a clean toned guitar, settling into a laid back groove perfectly suited to Thackery’s conversational vocals. “Change Your Tune” is an exercise in restraint, from the tempo to the guitar tones and slowly bent notes of the guitar fills and solos. Jimmy Thackery shows off his mastery of the instrument without showing off and keeps you hanging on each note, especially in the outro solo. The mid tempo blues continue with “Minor Step” which finds the master of the Stratocaster playing a Gibson arch top. The instrumental piece has elements from the jazz greats like Wes Montgomery and Grant Green, 50’s rock tunes like “Sleepwalk”, and Latin blues in its rhythms.

While the first two tracks have you thinking this is going to be a mellow trip on I-80 west of Cheyenne with the top down and Big Sky over head, “Coffee And Chicken” finds the band getting greasy and low down, on a dusty road outside of town, on the trail of something resembling a fresh cup of Joe and the Colonel’s greatest achievement. Jimmy turns up the gain, gets gritty with the tones, and he affects a Howlin’ Wolf rasp as he professes his chicken affliction and caffeine addiction.

Thackery’s lyrics are his secret weapon. He sings about common subjects, but his wordplay provides twists and turns of phrase that might leave you shaking your head, smiling, cringing, and laughing; maybe all at the same time. “Coffee And Chicken” might have him praying to the Colonel for a yardbird and cup of mud, but “King Of Livin’ On My Own” further shows off his deft wordplay and storytelling. The song is performed Jug Band style, with a jaunty gait, and almost Vaudevillian lyrics about a man who’s not unhappy to be recently thrust into living on his own. With a sly smile, Thackery delivers lines like “I threw the dishes in the tub, instead of all that rub a dub dub, I sprayed ‘em down with a high pressure garden hose.” Who hasn’t wanted to that once in a while? The king of living alone does it whenever damn well pleases. Altogether it’s a lyrical and musical treat, with Jimmy Thackery playing some engaging acoustic guitar licks under his tale of bachelorhood supremacy.

Jimmy Thackery pulls out the acoustic guitar again in “Run Like The Wind” and in “Shame, Shame, Shame” where it is accented by weeping slide licks that return us to the laid back road trip feel of Wide Open after the sharp, rough and rockin’ “Hard Luck Man” which put us in the passing lane for 5:47 with the pedal to the metal power chords and combustible fretwork. “Keep My Heart From Breakin’” is another tough blues rocker and Thackery unleashes some his most caustic soloing on Wide Open, with whammy bar dives and bent notes flying fast and furious.

“You Brush Me Off” is another low key instrumental, full of nuance and nimble fingered mood making guitar licks. Jimmy Thackery is obviously known for his guitar playing and on Wide Open he displays less histrionics and more subtlety. He expertly sets the moods, makes all the notes count and gives them plenty of room to breathe in the Wide Open. It’s a side of his playing that can be overlooked when discussing his talents. Jimmy Thackery plays fast, he plays wild, he plays loud; but he plays for the song and this record seems to be all about giving the notes space. After a few listens, you’ll pick up on the impact this approach has on the music and it will hopefully enhance your own enjoyment.

The disc closes with a shimmering instrumental that reminds us the heat coming off the highway on the horizon and that our trip through the Wide Open continues into the distance. The track was inspired by and named for the new Thackery home, called “Pondok” by the builders/previous owners. The translation from the South African/Indonesian is “shack or house with a tin roof” and it seems the previous owner and the Thackerys alike realize it’s not the materials that make a home.

Wide Open explores landscapes, soundscapes, homes, tones, and chicken bones. It takes us on the road, shows us the open spaces, and urges us to leave them alone. The Drivers display their knack for understated brilliance. Together, Jimmy Thackery and the band deliver an excellent new album that is not to be missed.

Find Jimmy Thackery And The Drivers on tour. You’ll be sorry you didn’t.

July 10, 2014
Sellersville Theatre – Sellersville, PA
July 11, 2014
Chan’s – Woonsocket, RI
July 12, 2014
Bull Run – Shirley, MA
July 13, 2014
North Atlantic Blues Festival – Rockland, ME
July 15, 2014
Dinosaur BBQ – Syracuse, NY
July 16, 2014
Dinosaur BBQ – Rochester, NY
July 17. 2014
Dinosaur BBQ – Buffalo, NY
July 18, 2014
Turning Point – Piermont, NY
July 19, 2014
Stanhope House – Stanhope, NJ
July 21, 2014
Iridium – New York, NY
July 23, 2014
St Georges Country Store – St Georges, DE
July 25, 2014
Birchmere – Alexandria, VA w/ Sonny Landreth!
July 26, 2014
Acoustic Stage – Hickory, NC
July 30, 2014
Midway Tavern – Mishawaka, IN
July 31, 2014
Callahan’s – Auburn Hills, MI
Aug 01, 2014
Reggie’s Music Joint – Chicago, IL
August 02, 2014
Famous Dave’s – Minneapolis, MN
Aug 06, 2014
Uncle Bo’s – Topeka, KS
August 08, 2014
George’s – Fayetteville, AR
Aug 09, 2014
Knucklehead’s – Kansas City, MO
Aug 14, 2014
Saint Andrew’s Market Place – Dothan, AL
August 16, 2014
Great American Blues Fest – Panama City Beach, FL
October 11, 2014
Daytona Blues Festival – Daytona, FL
Dec 06, 2014
Bradenton Blues Festival – Bradenton, FL