Altered Five Blues
Holler If You Hear Me
Blind Pig Records
Lead singer Jeff Taylor of
Milwaukee-based band Altered Five Blues Band
could be singing names out of the phone book and I'd
still be listening intently. His deep, rich voice is
that powerful and intriguing, and put him in front
of a tight band with a selection of 13 very strong
original compositions means the result is going to
be one of the best albums of the year. That's what
we get with the band's latest, Holler If You Hear
Me (Blind Pig Records). With the creative
production of Tom Hambridge, this one will rock your
world from start to finish.
Backing Taylor's booming voice is Jeff Schroedl
(guitar), Mark Solveson (bass), Raymond Tevich (keyboards) and
Alan Arber (drums), with harmonica ace Jason Ricci joining the
band on five cuts.
Opening the album is the raucous title cut,
"Holler If You Hear Me," with Schroedl's guitar playing and
Ricci's tasteful harmonica hooking you before Taylor comes in
with his booming voice that gives the feel of an old-time gospel
revival. The tempo slows on "Guilty Of A Good Time" with
Schroedl switching to acoustic guitar for the intro, providing
subtle backing to Taylor's voice, before the rest of the band
joins in and picks up the tempo a bit.
"If You Go Away (She Might Come Back)" is a
raucous blues that gives both Schoendl and Ricci plenty of star
time, leading into the slow blues "Holding On With One Hand,"
with Schoendl sounding a bit like Albert Collins on his opening
solo. The band rocks out again on "Full Moon, Half Crazy," with
Tevich laying down a foundation on his B3 and later providing a
strong solo. Add in some killer guitar from Schoendl and we get
one of the album's best cuts, one that rocks while also adding a
full dose of late-night mysticism.
Ricci is the star on the snaky blues number
"Where's My Money," with superb Chicago-style blues harmonica,
while Taylor's voice is so forceful that I was reaching for my
wallet with trepidation at his request for the cash. "All Suit,
No Soul" is a funky blues that pokes fun at an upper class dweeb
possessing lots of cash and everything that goes with it, but
with absolutely no morals. Taylor counters that number with the
slow soulful blues "I Got All I Need," as he tells us what he's
got going for him in his life.. "... liquor when I'm lonely and
a lover that's good to me ..." and "...cigarettes and soul food
when I'm all alone ..."
The Chicago-style slow blues "Clear Conscience,
Bad Memory" has Taylor explaining the approach to his love life,
with Schoendl laying down the appropriate blues guitar licks and
Tevich later coming in with a monster organ solo. As strong as
Taylor's voice is throughout the album, he booms out even more
on the up-tempo blues "In The Name of No Good." His more
emotional side comes out next on the slow blues "Leave Before I
Let You Down," as he tells his lover that he can't be trusted.
Schoendl lays down funky, effect-laden guitar in
the intro to the mid-tempo blues "Fifteen Minutes of Blame," as
Taylor confesses that he's not the perfect man with whom to be
involved. Closing the album is an up-tempo stomper, "Big Shout
Out," on which Taylor names all of the blues legends who have
inspired him and "...built the blues...," with echo in his
vocals and one more really fine harmonica solo from Ricci.
Holler If You Hear Me is an album that
every blues fan will want to own. All 13 cuts are strong and
worth repeated listens. Now that blues clubs are opening back
up, these cats need to get out on tour so that we can all see
and hear them in person.
--- Bill Mitchell