Phil Gammage’s Adventures in Bluesland play about just as many styles of electric blues as there ever were. If you think that the blues us limited to Robert Johnson and bumpa-bumpa-bumpa 1-4-5 chord chamges, this band’s new album The American Dream makes as good an introduction as any. And for people who’ve spent some time with the blues (hell, that’s pretty much everybody, right?), it’s a reminder why we like the music. The band are playing the album release show on June 10 at 9 PM at Lucille’s Bar, adjacent to B.B. King’s on 42nd St. Cover is $10
For a guy with sizzling guitar chops, Gammage – probably best known as the lead player in long-running postpunks Certain General – doesn’t even take a solo til the fifth track. This album’s more about recreating the ambience of classics from the 50s onward, yet it isn’t reverential. But it is purposeful: there’s no gratuitous Claptonizing, no wanky funkdaddeh fingah-poppin’ bass, no campy fusion keyb solos or brontosaurus drums. The opening track, One Kind Favor – – an alternate version of Blind Lemon Jeffersons’s See That My Grave Is Kept Clean – sets the stage. This one’s a noir blues: Don Fiorino’s keening lapsteel soars tersely over Gammage’s multitracked, lingering, reverbtoned lines, drummer Kevin Toole keeping a steady, ominous pulse with his rimshots.
Creepy in the Woods is a westside Chicago-style groove, with Gammage’s Elvis-like vocals over a backdrop that’s not nearly as creepy as the title imlies. Float and Sting has mmore of a ghoulaiblly feel akin to the darker steuff Sean Kershaw‘s been pouting out lately, with a familiar deep-cut Stones riff driving the bridge. The suave ballad I’m Drifting featires a a simmering, blue-flame Robert Aaron alto sax solo midway through. Booze, Blues and New Tattoos is a Texas boogie, but not the over-the-top ZZ Top kind, Gammage adding some unexpected, spaciously noir-tinged riffage.
With its languid, morose, jazz-infused ambience and mournful foghorn harp, Watching the Traffic Flow might be the strongest number here. Our Lucky Day is just vocals and growling, Stonesy distorted guitar til the first verse is over, while Feel the Music is sort the missing link between Muddy Waters’ version of Sweet Home Chicago and Otis Rush – until a long psychedelic interlude driven by Aaron’s sax.
The second of the cover songs here is Last Kind Word Blues, the band’s only adventure in country blues, and it’s absolutely macabre. By conttrast, Walk on the Beach is an upbeat, Elvis-inspired party number with a searing Fiorino solo and some smoky Aaron sax. The album comes full circle with the noir, bossa-tinged Come to Me. While it’s not officially out yet, the band’s webpage has several tracks streaming along with some excellent live footage and other material.