Thursday, June 12, 2008

Deliveries After Dark reviewed by Mark Thomspon

Deliveries After Dark
Popa Chubby
Blind Pig Records
13 tracks/67:51

The latest one from Popa Chubby is his ninth release for Blind Pig. Popa handles all of the and guitar parts as well as writing twelve of the songs on the disc. He is backed by Chris Reddan on bass, A.J. Pappas on bass and Dave Keyes on various keyboards. The focus throughout is on the leader with Keyes' contributions serving to fill out the arrangements.

The disc starts out in a rock & roll vein on the first four tracks. The opener, "Let the Music Set You Free," sports an engaging guitar line and Popa's intense vocal. His deep, powerful voice displays a surprising range and plenty of spirit. The next track updates the Mustang Sally tradition, recasting the soul anthem into a driving rocker. The title track describes the activities and illegal deals of some of the denizens of the night over a sledgehammer drumbeat. The lone cover finds Chubby turning "The Theme From the Godfather" into a modern-day surf instrumental classic. At this point, the disc makes an abrupt shift in emphasis to the blues. "Grown Man Crying Blues" is a stunning performance with Chubby lamenting about the pool-boy hanging around his house that doesn't have a pool. His guitar matches the emotional weight of his vocal, crying the blues with anger and despair. The intensity level gets dialed down on "You Can't Stop Love," which sports some nice slide guitar work. "2nd Avenue Shuffle" is a guitar showcase with Chubby serving up plenty of proof of his talent as a string-bender.

Then we get a look at the anger that exists in Popa's world. "I'll Piss on Your Grave" serves as a warning to a musical rival. Chubby leaves no doubt as to who will come out on top over a grinding rhythm punctuated by searing guitar lines. The upbeat arrangement on "Money Isn't Everything [It's the Only Thing]" serves as a stark contrast to the cynical message found in the song lyrics. And "You Never Loved Me" promises to exact vengeance without pity or remorse on a former lover. Chubby is able to create a chilling level of realism on this performance as his vocal spews out his hatred. The closing track finds Popa on acoustic guitar, lamenting the price of a musical career on "Oh Rock And Roll You Heartless Bitch."
One track that missed the mark was the reggae dub take on "Woman in My Bed." The track's style is a dramatic departure from the rest of the disc. It is not a bad performance but the cut doesn't have the emotional weight found in the rest of the disc.

Much of Chubby's past work has been a bit too over-the-top for my tastes. His new release finds him much more focused with a strong batch of tunes and solid support from his band. Some listeners might be put off by the aggressive nature of some of the lyrics. But Popa Chubby tells it like it is in his world without any apologies. His tales reflect some of the dark realities of life - and his guitar work serves as a musical counterpoint to emotions laid bare for all to see. Not for the faint-hearted but definitely worth a close listen.

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