304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws – a stupendous album of varied and intricate blues and blues-rock from a talented trio backed with some exceptional performances from the stellar guest list.
Supersonic Blues Machine has always held the door open to star guests adding to the power trio lineup based around Fabrizio Grossi (fabled producer and damn good bassist), Kenny Aronoff who has drummed with many big names and, initially Lance Lopez did the guitar and vocals but was recently replaced by our very own cage fighter, Kris Barras.
Their releases have proved the stellar guest list is not a gimmick, but a celebration of the blues that they all delighted in contributing to. Debut, West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco set the bar high and was more than matched with Californisoul and the live album (and Kris Barras’ first appearance) Road Chronicles.
This new album, Voodoo Nation, continues the high standards and adds some new guests to the experience as the blues and blues rock keeps flowing. The lyrical content is clever, biting at times and very, very relevant, as Fabrizio says: “The general discontent in the world at the moment is so widespread, we get told to embrace it because that’s life. No, that’s not life, it’s how we’re forced to live nowadays. Voodoo Nation refers to the times we’re living in, at least here in the States, but I guess the whole world can relate. We’re getting to the point where we’re living out life almost as Zombies. We’re little machines.” I wish I didn’t agree. With Kris on board, the music has evolved into…well imagine a Star-Spangled Union Flag as the blues of America meet the updated 60s British Blues Boom that he has brought to their feat-filled table.
The first three tracks feature the core band only and show how the trio gel well, be it studio or stage. Take the opener, Money, clever, many-layered blues, rock and a touch of gospel make up this strong introduction as Kris sings up a storm and knocks seven bells out of six strings and the powerhouse bass and drums underpin it all brilliantly. Too Late is instantly irresistible with a genius riff and melody. There is an excellent bass line underlying it that needs close attention. I’m not sure who is blowing the very subtle harp but it is effective and the same applies to the backing vocalists which adds a hint of soul. The guitar solo is restrained and bluesy and fits perfectly even if it’s very short. Coming Thru has great wah’d guitar, melodic vocals and that harp again as the blues, rock and soul reveal a depth and feel many bands spend eternity trying to find. The sort of bridge sees a change in tempo and some great guitar and harp.
The first guest appears next: You And Me have rising star guitarist King Solomon Hicks adding his talents to a very strong blues-rock song with an almost tribal call to arms chorus, a join-in chant and lyrical depth. Needless to say, the two guitarists are excellent as they share the ‘solo’ and sound as if they have worked together for ages…quality stuff. Get It Done has the guitar talents of Josh Smith bringing fire and feel…perhaps known best from his work with Joe Bonamassa, Josh is a great producer and has also released some fine solo work. Try the brilliant Burn To Grow or his latest Bird Of Passage, for example. This song is a blend of blues and rock ’n’ roll that draws you in from the drum intro through all of the minor time variations and you’ll be “oohh-ing” too. The guitar work behind the verses needs to be listened to, as do the keyboards and bass and the slide solo is unmissable. Talking of bottlenecks, 8 Ball Lucy sees slide maestro Sonny Landreth putting his mark on a track of slow and burning blues…”the devil came to town and she said your God too busy for you” sums up the sense and sensibility of this clever track. The slide guitar is majestic and the band give Sonny the space to glide throughout the song and the solo is instinctive, original and blends perfectly with Kris’s clever melody plays.
The eight-minute treat, Devil at the Doorstep is another jewel for guest Eric Gales to add to his Crown. Epic is a suitable word, as the simple piano intro and traditional twelve-bar blues are built on, up and around into a complex, accessible and even proggy slice of genius…the sitar-sounding guitar works very well and leads to an exquisite picked solo. Is It All features yet another great blues guitar/vocalist, Joe Louis Walker..check out his Blues Comin’ On as a highlight from his excellent catalogue. This is Moore-ish blues over a fascinating percussion as Joe and Kris share the vocals and add some glistening guitar and, I have to say, yet another brilliant bass performance.
Do It Again brings the unique talents of soulful blues lady, Ana Popovic…I have all of her CDs but if you want the perfect introduction to this prodigious talent, I’d suggest the 3CD Trilogy that shows her many influences and originality to great effect. Ana brings her combined talents to this rocking blues song. Her unique guitar attack fits nicely into the structure and the Barras solo expands cleverly on the melody of the former. I was expecting her to sing the odd verse but Kris does a fine job on his own. I Will Let Go has Kirk Fletcher bringing his insightful blues style to the table as his guitar runs light up a slow, perfect blues song. Every stroke of bass and lead string every subtle drum fill adds atmosphere to a delightful song…vocally astute and with some choral backing to add even more emotion.
The title track, Voodoo Nation, is back to the trio and, like all the songs, has so many layers that it has to be listened on repeat before the true scope is revealed. From the slow, key intro through to the riff and the bass and drum only backing to the verses…it is superb. Kris again does a great job on vocals and the guitar is heavy at times and then sweet slide with bite to vary the attack. The ‘call to prayer’ section will bring Floyd comparisons and, to be honest, I could have done without it even if it does make sense eventually. All Our Love closes the album with Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr providing a suitably countrified vocal to its sort of Lady And Black opening but then the electric slide, harp cut in and it becomes a class country blues with weight and a piano/slide duet that is just great.
This is an album of varied and intricate blues and blues-rock from a talented trio backed with some exceptional performances from the stellar guest list and joins my other SBM albums and comes out top.
Tracklisting: (guest musician):
You And Me (King Solomon Hicks)
Get It Done (Josh Smith)
8 Ball Lucy (Sonny Landreth)
Devil at the Doorstep (Eric Gales)
Is It All (Joe Louis Walker)
Do It Again (Ana Popovic)
I Will Let Go (Kirk Fletcher)
All Our Love (Charlie Starr)
Fabrizio Grossi: bass
Kenny Aronoff: drums
Kris Barras: vocals, guitar
(iTunes reminded me that The Sutherland Brothers (and later with Quiver) were a classy folkish rock duo with Gavin and Iain Sutherland recording some quality stuff for Island records in the early 70s…I enjoyed listening to the original song Sailing which Gavin wrote in 1972 and a certain Rod took to chart success.)