Monday, September 15, 2008

Soul Bender reviewed by Mark Thompson

Soul Bender
Matthew Stubbs
Vizztone Records
11 tracks/37:11

Matthew Stubbs is a guitarist who has been steadily building his career, serving stints with Janiva Magness and John Nemeth. He is now featured in Charlie Musselwhite's band, so you can bet that the young man can play.

His first release is unusual in that it contains a batch of catchy instrumentals composed by Stubbs. It places his guitar squarely in the spotlight and Matthew easily handles the pressure. He expertly mixes soul grooves, funky dance beats and high-powered boogie rhythms into a collection of musical highlights. Stubbs gets outstanding contributions from Sax Gordon, who leads the three-piece horn section behind him.

Stubbs proves himself to adept at a variety of tempos, firing off lightning-quick runs on “Sticky Buns” or establishing the smooth soul groove on “Rivelli’s Mood.” Gordon almost steals the instrumental honors with one inventive solo after another, reaching his creative peak on “20 Gallons of Beadle Juice.” He and Stubbs trade licks at a frantic pace on “Stomping on Thru.”

These guys give you an idea of what Booker T & the Mgs would have sounded like if Booker T had been a sax player. “Soul Bender” is a breath of fresh air, an exciting work that establishes Stubbs as a musician to keep an eye on.

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