Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Blues: An Evolution reviewed by David Stine

The Blues: An Evolution
Sampler from Electro Glide
Eeectro Glide Records
12 tracks

This sampler of music from the artists on the Electro Glide label, starts off with Joliet’s Big Dog Mercer and his heavy guitar riffed “Some Other Fool.” Well, is it blues? Is this an evolution? No, on both counts. The lyrics are simplistic and Mercer, like so many, thinks he must dirty up both his voice and guitar to play the blues authentically. Not true. Mercers’ next outing “Helpless,” benefits from Mercer singing in his natural voice and keeping the guitars in a jazzy quasi Allman Brothersesque song about addiction. This is the best Mercer track. Next up is “Big Dog Blues” where Mercer seems to struggle to get the lyrics delivered in the tight rock frame established by the, again, heavy guitar riff. As the last tune seeped Allman Brothers, this tune owes a lot to band like Savoy Brown. My final analysis is that Big Dog Mercer probably puts on a good live show that didn’t really translate to this disc.

Memphis’ Brandon Santini is next up with his Rufus Thomas like “You Ruined Poor Me.” Where Big Dog Mercer’s drummers pummels us “Mercilessly,” , Santini’s band is smoother and more refined. Shades of The Fabulous Thunderbirds echoes in Santini’s “What Can I Do.” This enjoyable songs get points taken off for not properly micing the background vocals during the call and response. From the harp to the Jimmy Vaughan type solo, this tune is clearly indebted to the T-birds. Guess what, so is the next tune: “She’s Sweet Like Honey.” Although there is nothing new here, Santini does what he does admirably and, like Mercer, I’m guessing puts on a pretty good live show. Those missing the sound of the early T-birds might want to check him out.

Danny and The Devils (urgh) are next up with “Don’t Come Back This Time.” The start-stop rhythm and super heavy guitar may be an evolution whose time hasn’t come yet. This song is saved by the lyrics and delivery. “Jealousy,” is still heavy but heartfelt. Again, if rock guitar is an “evolution” didn’t Stevie Ray Vaughan start it almost 30 years ago? More notes don’t necessarily mean more emotion. Yes, MOST blues guitar players think that this is the way to get their point across, but I’d still like to see someone break this bad habit. Urgency can be delivered any number of ways. At just shy of seven minutes, this song is over half guitar solo. Maybe I should blame Jimi Hendrix then. The swinging “Mama’s Boy” is a nice break on the ears, with its B3 intro and restrained guitar. Aside from my criticism, Danny Baron is a slightly better tunesmith than the previous two artists. “Mama’s Boy” delivers a much-needed break from the bad-treating women them of too many bloose (you know) songs.

The final artist captured here is Tom Holland and The Shuffle Kings. Another lefty, like Big Dog Mercer, Holland’s approach is more traditional and less hit-you-over-the-head. “Keep On Playin’” is and Elmore James like that tracks over seven minutes and is about half work. I’m thinking, finally a band that is not trying to deliver a knockout punch. So far, Holland’s band is the most enjoyable – maybe because it’s not an “evolution.” ”S.A. Blues” is another restrained ballad and maybe the most enjoyable track on this disc. Holland has a soulful voice and augments it with a laid back R&B approach to his guitar here. The Last cut is another “slide-to-single-note instrumental called “Zeb’s Blues.” If Holland is attempting to establish himself as a guitar player and not singer, this tune will take him a long way. Very nice.

My final analysis this that these bands probably deliver a good-to-great live shows. Holland and his band are the stand outs. There is really nothing new or evolutionary here. Some of it is more solid than others. All the bands merit venturing out for a show or two, but as far as buying the music, on its own, I hesitate to recommend unless you just can’t own enough 

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