ALIVE AT THE DEEP BLUES FEST - Various Artists (Alive Naturalsound)
If Alive Naturalsounds putting out a live album of their current roster sounds indulgent, then so be it. LA-based French expat Patrick Boissel's label has built a stunning back catalogue that presaged and launched today's back-to-basics garage blues-soul scene, harking backwards but always looking forwards.
Seven acts span 13 tracks on an album recorded over a few days (June 29-July 1, 2012, to be precise) at a festival at Minneapolis in the American Midwest. Even my maths suggests all the bands aren't going to get equal time but there's more than enough to spread around and give you a good feel for what went down. So to work:
Buffalo Killers are hippies who could have been living in Laurel Canyon 40 years ago. Their current platter shows their psychedelic rock-pop leaning towards economy and that's how it plays on "River Water". They stretch it to 120 minutes on "It's a Shame" but it's anything but. Guest Mark Holder's harmonica rips the world a new bum.
Lee Bains III missed his moment by not being born early enough to have played the original Woodstock. "There Is a Bomb in Gillead" reminds me I should have reviewed his album by the same name by now. The down-home rock of "The Red, Red, Dirt Of Home" makes me wonder if he's heard of The Allman Brothers.
Somehow the psychedelic pop of Brian Olive has passed me by. His two tracks here ("Travelling" and "Bonelle") have a dash of boogie-on-LSD and introspection respectively. The former is a little weak, heard in this company. It's probably partyl down to a lack of familiarity on my part.
No such problem with Radio Moscow who are a rocki-and-psych speedball tour de force. Their brace of cuts don't let them down. You would not pick them as a duo. "Little Eyes" sounds like they've been drinking the same Kool-Aid as Jimi Hendrix only gulping it down by the bucketful. It features typically frenzied Parker Griggs guitar. "Hold On Me" sounds only slightly more terrestrial.
Left Lane Cruiser is another power tripping two-piece but with a Southern rock take. "24 Hour Blues" is conventionally phrased but Freddy J IV's vocal and deep fried guitar take it to another psychedelisized place. "Rambling On My Mind" brings bass-player Jim Diamond and Mark Holder along for the ride and gets all harp-laden and heavy. This chestnut is fried just fine.
"Three More" is Philly power trio John The Conqueror's only contribution and if it suffers by having to follow Left Lane Cruiser it doesn't put up a half bad fight. Perhaps something with a bit more funk might have worked better. I'm not marking it down by much.
Henry's Funeral Shoe is probably the first Welsh band to have played the Bayport Festival but their raw bluer than blues must have left a deep impression on this evidence. "Be Your Own Invention/Stranger Dig" seems like it's going to go on forever and then warps into some musical aneurism. Pity the guitar roadie who had to re-tune after this. Playing a song you've named after yourself seems the only way to top it and close things down. So they do. - The Barman
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