Monday, June 29, 2009

Black Bone Child - S/T

I have no idea what's in the water there, but damn if Austin hasn't gone and done it again.

The rightly christened live music capital of the world, and mecca of the American Indy blues scene, Austin has no end to the dynamic bands and performers it continually manages to unleash onto the music lover's ears, and let me tell you, the fine City's latest offering is just about as tasty as they come.

Black Bone Child is a two man blues-rock outfit that quite simply blows the doors off your perceptions. Now, you may think that the two-man blues thing has been done to death, but trust me, don't let that misconception steer you away from checking out what these cats have to offer, as Black Bone Child sound nothing like those who've come before them. Avoiding the more constant garage-y flavor of The Black Keys or the tendency of the White Stripes to lose themselves up their own arty ass, Black Bone Child have learned that the secret to making their music work is the groove. It's got to have that groove, baby. It's the funk in their rock, the soul in their blues. And let me tell you, these cats can dig into a groove with more tenacity than a train car full of miners hunting for gold.

In a nutshell, this is straight-on rust and whiskey, hard-core blues, kick-the-hay-outta-the-barn, bring-on-the-electric guitars-and-let's-have-a-party, rock and roll. It only takes a few seconds of the opening track "Time Pass Me By," to realize that we're tuned into something special. Kicking off with guitars and bass, the riff here positively percolates, rumbling out of the speakers in down-home, ass-kicking form. Now I don't really know which bone child, Kenneth M. or Donny James, plays which instrument or sings which part, and it doesn't really matter. This is a group effort, a seamless merging of the two musicians into one unadulterated attack of ballsy, smoke and leather flavored rock. These guys lock onto the groove with all the passion of an escaped convict heading out of town, driving that baby all the way to the hills. The vocals, whether solo or in harmony, are laced with the trueness of a weathered heart, bleeding with moxy and soul. Then when the drums come in, thick and mean, our whole blues barn gets tossed into somebody's garage. No matter how you slice it, this is a rollicking good funky, pound your beer and shake your ass tune, and an instant grabber for what turns out to be an album full of such songs.

"Ha Ha Hey Hey," brings in one scorching mean harmonica to go along with the loosely strung, swamp acoustic guitar. This song rumbles and rolls like some freakish monster pulling itself outta some East Texas swamp. Again, it only takes the boys a few seconds to lock onto that groove, and I'm sure it only takes the audience a few seconds more to head out onto the dance floor; tight cutoff short wearing women swinging their hips in abandon while men do the male grunt dance, both sexes jumping in for the sing-along chorus. Another harmonica solo midway through the song dispells any doubts you may have of the boys soul. It's right there, bleeding for you.

"Light up the Sky," pounds out next sounding like that old lost 80's band King Swamp, fierce and mean and looking for a fight. The riff of this song bubbles along like the boiling of a hot Texas chili, staggering between big bass notes and the mutated guitar. I won't even talk about the groove here, because what's really important is that three songs in, we can see these cats are no one-trick pony. Employing their own mix of fuzzed slide guitar, big distorted bass line, throbbing drums, heaping doses of swamp southern funk, and wailing harmonica, each song brims with it's own fresh energy. Often times, the problem with two-man blues outfits is that their sound isn't rich enough, or layered enough to really fill out a song, much less a whole album. Nonesuch here. As "Light the Sky," blends into "Watch it Burn," there's no doubt in my mind that Black Bone Child haven't even begun to explore the full depth of their muse.

Then as if on cue, " Make Me Bleed," brings in a whole new side of the band. Following the understated AC/DC'ish guitar intro and the screaming harmonica solo, the boys lock onto a groove that can only be described as britrock funneled through the deep south. This sounds like Oasis, drunk and homeless, camped out on the shores of Lake Travis, and loving every second of it. A slight distortion and vocal inflection bring on a sound similar to the vocals of The Stone Roses, while the band pound out their mutated blues-britrock hybrid. Check out the bass breakdown two-thirds in, followed by a chiming guitar tone we've yet to experience on this album. Damn, when I say it's good, I mean it's really good.

"Mine," follows next, riding some bizarre bass tone, and immediately resets the stage from the displaced sounds of London to the swamps, rollicking on thick and syrupy, positively exuding the heart of blues and soul. An understated song, deceptively simple in composition, it still is amazing effective. Especially when the boys drop it down for the guitar solo, a burning, snaking, absolutely serpentine creation, high-lighted by some nice rolling drums that keep the hips shaking on the dancefloor.

Then, just as you're getting past the point of sweating from the dancefloor workout you've had in some random hot and humid, wooden-floored blues hall, Black Bone Child drop it all down into a slippery and sultry bass heavy burner, "Nothing to Lose." This one's designed to get those girls in the cutoff shorts to roll up the belly's of their t-shirts, revealing a muscular stomach of hot glistening sweat. The bass continues to roll on, as seductively alluring as a bass can be, while the guitar layers on in shortened thrusts, probing through the melody, sung in whispered and hush tones. Moistened tongues peer out to wet parched lips, while the unrelenting drums beat on and on. As if to throw this whole erotic-fest over the top, the vocals let lose a mantra of released inhibitions, repeating, "You've got nothing to lose/You've got nothing to lose." Wow!

Ok, after my shower, we dash through the raving alt-blues rock of "Fill Me Up," with it's Edge-esque guitar harmonies, to the bass fuzz garage explosion of "You're Gonna See," the swamp rock blast of "Going Down Slow," to the closer, the subtle loose-sting acoustic lament of "Ask for Forgiveness." Then if you're like me, you'll pick up the CD case for your 15th time, and stare again in awe of the two (and only two) names of the musicians who just crafted this amazing set of funkified alt-blues. Then, (if you're like me) you'll talk to your partner The Pope and state that hell or high water, we're making it out to Austin next year for a long weekend, because, I just have to see these cats live.

The men of Black Bone Child aren't reinventing rock and roll with this release. Rather, they're mining back deep into rock's roots and investing it with a freshly charged dose of modern energy. What the boys are creating is good-time rock and roll, deep and nuanced, dirty and nasty, funky and sultry. This is for when you want your backyard bar-B-Q to move beyond the gentile stage and get interesting. Dig in. Enjoy.


Buy here: Buy the CD

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Took some of your review and did a post on these tasty rockin blues boys.

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