Local spins on bar blues and studio rock.
On Bluesfinger, Memphis vets the Daddy Mack Blues Band showcase a style of formalist, Memphis-centric bar-band blues pulled down by generic, unimaginative song choices and pulled back up by a musical and vocal command most formalist bar-blues bands can't match. In other words, the band consistently tops the material. (Mack himself only has one co-writer credit.)
The band replicates a Stax groove so thoroughly on the new (?) "Mailman," with Daddy Mack's sharp guitar leads riding atop James Bonner's Steve Cropper-esque rhythm that you wonder why they bothered covering the Bar-Kays' Stax nugget "Soul Finger," cringingly re-dubbed "Bluesfinger" and spiked with distracting female vocals, for a title track. Clearly, they can give fans that classic Memphis sound without having to underline the trick quite so broadly or clumsily. And "Blues Highway," while not a cover, matches a B.B. King-style sound (you can pretty much sing "The Thrill Is Gone" over the top of the track) with a perfunctory title-tells-the-story lyric, the concept essentially repeated a few songs later on "Long Hard Road."
Better is "Can't Make It Without Your Love," which pits warm Hammond B-3 organ and an understated horn section against Mack's strong soul-blues vocals and lead-guitar fills that never strive for too much. The slow, deep soul style sounds so good that the lyric doesn't matter. And the band shines again on another branch of the Memphis sound, cover Albert King's "If You Got It," where Harold Bonner's bass launches the song and steals the show. ("Can't Make It Without Your Love," "You Got My Money," "If You Got It").
Tetanus is a partnership of guitarist Scott Hardin and bassist Grayson Grant (Straight Up Buzz, Big Ass Truck), with ace studio help here from Free Sol members Elliot Ives (guitar) and Teddy Thomas (drums). This second album was co-produced by Skidd Mills at the local 747 Studios he operated with Paul Ebersold (between them having worked for such successful bands as Saliva, 3 Doors Down, Sister Hazel).
The type of dense, studio-perfected hard rock Tetanus showcases on Such a Loser has never been to my tastes, and I don't think the genre has yielded much in the way of memorable or lasting music in the decade-and-a-half since the grunge-goes-commercial sound began dominating hard-rock radio. But this band commands the style impressively. And not just because Such a Loser sounds so professional. It stands out instead because the band also sounds honest and comfortable in its own skin. And the album has a melodicism that gives its polished power a better-than-average foundation. ("Such a Loser," "Wouldn't You," "This Time").
The debut album from local band the Delta Nomads isn't quite what I expected. Based on the name, the band photos, and the classic car on the cover, I was expecting a bar blues and/or roots rock band. But the real telltale turns out to be the foreground cover image — the bottom half of a leggy woman in very short Daisy Dukes.
There are some undercurrents of blues, soul, and funk here, but the music on Fully Loaded is primarily hard-edged classic rock of the '70s and '80s variety. The band's muscular rock style is often manifested in heavy, at times overripe, guitar riffs and solos and some mannered vocal phrasing. And when the band fully indulges its sleaze-rock side, as on "Let 'Em Slide" ('em being a girl's panties), it's a little too much.
Fully Loaded is better when the band tones the sound and attitude down a little. The would-be gospel-inflected, thinking-man's lament "Old Man Fate" is too busy, packing in heavy guitar, a call-and-response chorus, and a saxophone solo. But songs such as the Southern rock "Roll With It," the Latin-tinged "Time," and the Bob Seger-ish "Knew She Would" suggest more fruitful paths.