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September 2021

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Altered Five Blues Band
Holler If You Hear Me

Blind Pig Records

Altered Five Blues Band

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

 

 

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