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Chicago has a blues tradition, founded in the
Delta blues stylings of musicians who travelled north to escape the Jim Crow
laws of the southern states. It is the home to blues labels like Chess Records
in the past and Alligator records currently, and can boast a literal who's who
of blues greats such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Chicago is also home to Thee Arthur Layne,
who refer to themselves as a “scuzz rock” band, but to my ears they tap into
the blues history and take the music to some interesting places.
They have released two singles,
titled “HVY DRT”, Volumes 1 and 2. As there are only a total of 4 songs between
the two releases, I thought I would write about them both. Maybe I should also
tell you that I really love this band and I really want you to check them out.
“Volume One” starts out with
“Father Friendly”, which has a bit of a scuzzy quality to it and for me is
probably the most straight up rock song among the bunch. It also has a high
quality groove to it, which is something that heavy music needs more of. In my
imagination, these guys are up on stage in a hot, sweaty club, and when they
drop any of these tunes, the groove is shaking every ass in the house.
The other side of this single is
“Scorpion Crawl”. If these guys met Ol' Scratch at the crossroads to sell their
souls for the blues, they also dropped acid together, and this song is the
outcome. The track is bare bones and sparse at times, but when the time comes
these gentlemen get heavy as fuck, and I dare you to stand still while you
listen to this one. Singer Jason Walters is a revelation, going from smooth as
butter to bringing down hellfire and brimstone. This tune will definitely grab
Moving on to “Volume 2”, we get
into “Heavy Traffic”, which features some very tasty guitar work from Adam
Scott. It puts me in mind a bit of Leslie West and Mountain. The song itself if
bluesy workout but done by a band that has taken the basic blues and done their
own thing with it. These two releases are roughly a year apart and you can hear
that the band is very confident in what they want to do and how they put it
across. You can hear the growth of the band between the first and second
volumes. I like a band that knows what they want to do and are able to
communicate that vision to their listeners.
“North Avenue Shakedown” is the
flip side of this second single and my favorite track so far by these guys. It
is by turns rough and raw, then smooth as silk. I can hear may influences in
this one. The blues is there, of course, but also psychedelia, some garage
rock, and some very interesting structure to the song. The guitar solo leads to
an instrumental freak out, then a vocal only breakdown, and then a wind up to a
perfect ending to an ambitious track like this.
This is some really quality
music by a band that is getting better and better. I hope the good people of Chicago are taking notice
and I hope this band is able to tour so I can see them in person. Do get your
hands on this music. You can find it digitally on their Bandcamp site or you
can buy physical copies at www.wholso.me/wax.