Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Voice of the Heart reviewed by Steve Jones

Voice of the Heart
The CSL Jr. Band
Lancaster Records (Self Released)
10 tracks/

I was wandering through MySpace Music and stumbled upon The CSL Jr. Band. I listened to them on My Space and liked them, so we swapped amenities on line and a few days later a CD appeared in my mailbox. These guys play a hard driving brand of blues based rock that remind me a little of ZZ Top, the early Marshall Tucker Band, and others of that genre. Hailing from Sedalia in the Show-Me State, these guys have laid down ten original tracks that really impressed me. They are not a bunch of guys sitting in their garage or basement trying to sound like someone else and playing a bunch of covers. They are creating new music based on their influences and likes and they have done a pretty damn good job of it.

Greg Lefholz fronts the band as vocalist and he also contributed to the track “Coup DeVill”. His gritty and gut-wrenching vocals are super. Chuck Lancaster leads on guitar and had his pen in at least part of every track’s composition. Les Gifford play bass and Carl Michael is on drums, both providing a driving backdrop to the tunes. Jamey Shepherd is also on guitar and has credits involving four of the songs. The songs have the sound of the big, gnarly jam bands but the songs range from 2:41 to just over 5 minutes, so there is nothing overdone or overstated here. They present their songs in your face and when they are done they move on to the next track without getting lost in endless repeats without getting into so many differing takes on the chords and melody. I’m sure these guys could turn some tracks into 15 or minute jam sessions, but they have created some really nice songs and not just a means to jam. I don’t have a problem with jam bands, but some of them get lost in trying to prove something and miss the forest for the trees. These guys have created music within bounds and they deliver the goods within those bounds.

The first cut opens with a driving beat as they give us “Big as TX”. It is a big and bouncing song and they do “play it big as Texas”. “All In” and “Coup DeVill” later on are similar, bigger than life, driving, almost rockabilly songs with the dual guitars banging out a groove and alternating the solos/leads. They can wail when they want to, but they are not afraid to let it hang out acoustically. In “Hangman” they get down and dirty into the blues and give us some acoustic guitar mixed in along with a little slide; it is quite well done with gutsy vocals and beautiful guitar work. The CD is filled with little gems of good stuff; “New Loving” adds a little harp and is a full fledged deep in the blues number that is one of the CD’s real stand outs.

“Bluezin It” is a wicked guitar instrumental that features some stratospheric fret work by Lancaster. They also close out the album with another guitar-led instrumental entitled “Mason”. A simmering and slow southern blues rock with the rhythm guitar paralleling some of the stuff and filling in ever so nicely the rest of the time. As the song fades into the distance, it leaves me wanting to hear more of these guys. I hope I can catch up with them somewhere in the New Year and listen to these guys live; they have a hot CD with some great songs that really deserve that you give them a listen!

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