By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
The Soulard Blues Band has been around for more than 25 years, but this recording is the first to feature the current lineup, which came together about two years ago. Essentially reconstituting the band from scratch, bassist and keeper of the flame Art Dwyer was once again able to recruit a talented and versatile group of players. Now featuring a unique frontline comprised of two vocalist/guitarists and a trombone player, the SBB's unusual instrumentation provides a distinctive sound both in its live shows and here on CD.
Guitarists John Mondin and Bob Kamoske complement each other effectively, serving up an encyclopedic variety of lead and rhythm licks, textures and timbres. Mondin also handles most of the lead vocals, singing with especially deep feeling on his own composition, "Front Page Blues." Meanwhile, trombonist John "Wolfman" Wolf fills out the ensemble with an assortment of background riffs, sometimes overdubbing himself into a one-man section, and contributes several tasty solos. Wolf delivers a particularly pungent plunger-assisted workout on the title track, a workingman's lament with a Bo Diddley beat, sung with sly wit by Kamoske. Dwyer and drummers Leroy Wilson and Kirk "Dr. Drum" Grice ably shuffle, swing and groove throughout, providing a supple yet stable foundation.
Highlights include "She's Crazy," which starts by evoking John Lee Hooker's boom-boom boogie, then ups the ante with key changes and a concluding section that builds some real tension by stacking guitar and trombone riffs in harmony. A cover of Lowell Fulsom's "Pico" has a Memphis soul vibe with a slashing guitar solo reminiscent of Steve Cropper, and guest Eric McSpadden contributes stellar harp and vocals on a jumping version of Fulsom's "Reconsider Baby."
Not every track is an unqualified success -- "Tileman" is a potentially interesting mix of James Brown-style funk and atmospheric guitar effects that never quite gels -- but Trickle Down Blues has enough new twists on the familiar to satisfy old fans and perhaps win some new ones as well.