Well, he’s from Bradford, Pennsylvania actually but when you dig into his work over the previous three albums, Jeff Fetterman does have some justification in calling his latest release Southern Son as the twelve tracks reveal. It also includes a brave Bob Dylan cover that is always risky when such a genius as Jimi Hendrix also vastly improved on the original and made it his own…I’m sure you know the song I mean.
Opening with I Don’t want to you get a full plate of blues-rock…drums lead to Hammond, then horns before the riff and apt vocals: it all adds up to a solid start with so much to listen to. Fortunately, the production is so crisp it’s easy to isolate every element and gain extra enjoyment with even listen. The gravy to the meal is a rather good guitar solo in two parts, the first a nicely picked piece and then a clever wah’d part. 49/61 is the second track; the title referring to the roads that form those famous Crossroads that Robert Johnson immortalised. RJ it isn’t but the bouncy riff and horns backed by neat guitar and a great, varied, and interesting solo/duet following some nice snare and bass work introduced by the devil himself.
Memphis Sky slows the pace for an almost country song that retains enough blues to be acceptable…the Springsteen reference in the lyrics and the composition would normally be anathema to me (I think Ritchie Blackmore and I are the only ones who don’t get him) but the slide tones of the guitar throughout and especially on the solo make it more than bearable. Goin’ Down To Nashville was easy to love with the rockabilly reading of Elmore’s classic riff. This is irresistible from start to finish and I certainly want to meet the lady of the lyrics! The guitar solo is as inventive as you would expect from Jeff, but also listen out for the great bass and clever acoustic behind it all.
Living With The Blues lives up to the title: a slow-burning blues song that may use recognisable tropes but is packed with emotion both vocally and in every guitar note. The addition of some tasty electric piano only builds the atmosphere and sets the scene for a powerful, emotive solo. Ain’t Got You brings a bit of a Texas shuffle to the table and, reminiscent of Smokestack Lightning in some ways, it still has individuality and sufficient bite to make it a great reading of SRV style blues. The solos are inventive and fitting with the perfect lilt to match the riff and the rock-solid band behind it all. Feels Like Rain is next and hits the southern rock/blues button spot on and guitars and Hammond work well. It’s a bit pale compared (only) to the rest of the album but, after the weighty chords at the bridge, we still get a quality solo that plays with the melody craftily. Want a twelve-bar shuffle?
They don’t come much better than Tell Me Baby which shows admirably how a very familiar form can be moulded afresh…the guitar throughout has to be listened to understand how Jeff has meshed this song together so well. Next up is an instrumental: Blues For Charlie is a stunning piece of guitar interplay between Jeff and Kid and, as it’s a tribute to Jeff’s father, it shows how guitars can speak as effectively as any words in the right hands. Now we come to that cover…All Along The Watchtower revised but with funk and Latin inferences in the intro before the familiar riff comes in and the band takes a more traditional (Hendrix) approach…not Jimi, but still damn good.
Billed as ‘Bonus Tracks’, although as they’re already included that is kind of strange…never mind, two more instrumental tracks by this capable and engaging musician can only be good. The first is Voodoo Funk and it is exactly that: funky with a fabulous bass line but with what sounds like sampled keyboards arguing with itself. The saving grace is the guitars when they’re unleashed….brilliant Finally we get Southside Blues which opens with great keys and the familiar blues pattern but that works so well in the hands of Kid and Jeff…the key solo is just lovely and the guitar matches it when it gets its turn.
To sum up…this is a hugely enjoyable album with enough blues and guitars to suit virtually every taste. There isn’t that much Southern as suggested by the title, but don’t be put off; give it a listen and revel in the sounds of a high-quality band in perfect harmony.
Bluesdoodles rating: A Wonderful addition to any blues and/or guitar lover’s collection
1. I Don’t Want To
3. Memphis Sky
4. Goin’ Down To Nashville
5. Living With The Blues
6. Ain’t Got You
7. Feels Like Rain
8. Tell Me Baby
9. All Along The Watchtower
10. Voodoo Funk
11. Southside Blues
Jeff Fetterman: vocals, guitar
Kid Andersen: guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals
Eric Brewer: guitar
Ralph Reitinger: bass
John McGuire: drums
John Halbleib: trumpet
Ric Feliciano: trombone
Doug Rowan: saxophone
Recorded at Greaseland Studios, California and produced by Kid Andersen
(Tom’s iTunes run on track led straight to another Jeff and another genius of the guitar: Jeff Healey dazzled consistently through his shortish career but every song is a delight and I was treated to Daze of the Night from his Heal My Soul release.)