Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wish I Had You reviewed by Mark Thompson

Wish I Had You
The Rounders
Blind Pig Records
13 tracks/53:33

Hailing from Okalahoma City, the Rounders are a five-man band with their first major label recording after two self-released discs. They feature a twin guitar attack from Ryan Taylor and Michael Stone with Dave Spindle on bass and Stuart Williamson on drums. Brian Whitten handles the lead vocals.
The disc opens with a surging boogie rhythm supporting Whitten’s baritone voice on “God Knows I’m Trying”. The band is able to create a sound quite close to that of the Mississippi hill country popularized by the late R. L. Burnside and kept alive by his extended musical family. The Rounders prove it is no fluke by laying down another strong performance on the title track. They are able to capture the feel of the old blues masters while updating the sound for a new generation of listeners raised on rock and hip hop.

Musically , the disc will grab your attention and not let go. Taylor wrote eleven of the tracks and had a hand in writing the other two. You won’t hear any self-indulgent displays of instrumental virtuosity. Instead, the band takes full advantage of the strong melodies Taylor provided . His music isn’t fancy, featuring basic blues progressions in inventive settings. The band focuses on the rhythmic groove and rides it for all it’s worth.
As dynamic as the music is throughout the disc, Taylor needs to do some wood shedding on writing lyrics. Several tracks have a few phrases repeated numerous times, which makes it difficult to paint any kind of compelling verbal picture. Whitten makes a valiant effort to add weight to the writing through his vocals but a couple songs, like “Wait For Me” or “Leave My Trunk Behind“, don’t give him much to work with. Still, the Rounders are able to overcome simplified lyrics by playing the hell out of Taylor’s arrangements.
When everything comes together, the Rounders rock hard. Check out “Let Me Talk at You”. Whitten turns in his best effort as his booming vocal rides on top of the guitar power chords over a pumping bass line and a driving big beat from Williamson. Another highlight is “It Wasn’t My Baby” which finds the band exploring Chicago-style blues on a track that sports a memorable guitar riff.
The Rounders clearly have a lot to offer. They have managed to preserve and update the Blues tradition in the same package. Wish I Had You goes beyond promise to deliver an exciting package of inventive music. When the band figures out how to write lyrics on a par with Taylor’s music, these guys will be really dangerous.

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