Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Alley Cat reviewed by Steve Jones

Alley Cat
Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band
False Dog Records
14 tracks/52 minutes

It’s tough to review a disc from a band that has three front men who routinely play the role with a fourth behind the drum set. It’s tough to review a disc where the band seems to just be having fun and exhibits a true “joie de vivre” in their music. It’s tough to review a disc like this.

No it’s not. It is a wonderful thing, actually.

Andy, Mel and the rest of the band are guys who are just doing what they love to do– make great music. They’ve done that for fourteen years now, a feat unto itself. Most of the Crossroads members know these guys from up the road in Madison.

For those of you who may not know them, let me have the honor of introducing them to you. Westside Andy Linderman is the harp player, Mel Ford plays guitar, Jim Voegeli is on keyboards, Tony Menzer is on bass and Steve Dougherty is the drummer. Andy, Mel, and Jimmy are vocalists and songwriters, and Steve provides backup vocals. Any of these guys could be the front man for the band full time and succeed. When you have all that talent and fourteen years of friendship and camaraderie you get music that is spectacular.

Whether it’s Mel picking away on his guitar to a rockabilly tune or Andy wailing on harp and bending notes to the nth degree or Jimmy tickling the keys, we have here a band that delivers a sound and style of music that is impossible not to tap your foot or get up and dance to. And Tony and Steve provide a superb backbeat that allows the other three to move off into their worlds and come back in without worry.

The CD opens with a catchy rockabilly number of Mel’s that is the title track. The tune opens like a Fabulous Thunderbirds like manner with the beat and guitar and harp wailing away. I was almost ready for Kim Wilson to jump out and start singing and Mel was there. These guys are cut from the same cloth and the bands play with the same reckless abandon. In fact, the only track that was not penned by the band is Kim Wilson’s “She’s Hot,” which the band grooves impeccably.

Voegili’s “Can’t Be True” features him on vocals and B-3 organ. His organ playing is gritty and funky and his vocals and interplay with Ford and Linderman make for a whirling dervish of a track. He is equally comfortable in barrelhouse style piano or laying out hot licks on the old B3. His keyboards are exceptional.

Andy’s harp is equally gritty and gets down to the funkiness that the best harp players bring to their work. The “Gamblin” Woman” track opens with the growling distorted harp sounds that showcase Andy’s talents. Whether down on the low end or squeaking out the high notes, his harp work is equal to anyone out there.

Mel is adept at suave Les Paul sound like “Jobless Recovery” even goes acoustic for us on the final track “Molly’s Rag.” His steady picking and fretwork are just fantastic. He and Andy go back and forth by themselves on the final cut as a super finale to this long-awaited studio album.
Their fans will enjoy this studio set as will folks who are not yet initiated into the following they have built for themselves. No one who listens to this album can escape it’s pull. The rich sounds that these guys produce are infectious. Once they get into your blood you will be cruising the Southern Wisconsin/Northern Illinois Area clubs to go watch and listen to these guys.

I have no qualms about recommending this CD to anyone who wants to experience the blues being play by men who are so well versed and credible at their craft. And after all that, you even get CD liner notes written by our own Mark Thompson. This CD is a great effort and needs to be in your collection!

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